THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN EGYPT
THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED THIRTEENTH CONGRESS
JULY 24, 2014
Serial No. 113-207
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
DANA ROHRABACHER, California
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
JOE WILSON, South Carolina
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas
TED POE, Texas
MATT SALMON, Arizona
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois
MO BROOKS, Alabama
TOM COTTON, Arkansas
PAUL COOK, California
GEORGE HOLDING, North Carolina
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania
STEVE STOCKMAN, Texas
RON DeSANTIS, Florida
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina
TED S. YOHO, Florida
SEAN DUFFY, Wisconsin
CURT CLAWSON, Florida
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
BRAD SHERMAN, California
GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
KAREN BASS, California
WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
JUAN VARGAS, California
BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III, Massachusetts
AMI BERA, California
ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
GRACE MENG, New York
LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida, Chairman
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio
JOE WILSON, South Carolina
ADAM KINZINGER, Illinois
TOM COTTON, Arkansas
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas
RON DeSANTIS, Florida
DOUG COLLINS, Georgia
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina
TED S. YOHO, Florida
SEAN DUFFY, Wisconsin
CURT CLAWSON, Florida
THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
JUAN VARGAS, California
BRADLEY S. SCHNEIDER, Illinois
JOSEPH P. KENNEDY III, Massachusetts
GRACE MENG, New York
LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
Mr. Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., director, International Security and
Counterterrorism Issues, International Affairs & Trade Team, U.S. Govern-
ment Accountability Office 8
Mr. Charles Dunne, director, Middle East and North Africa Programs, Free-
dom House 32
Mr. Sam LaHood (former Egypt Country director, International Republican
Mr. Patrick Butler, vice president, Programs, International Center for Jour-
Ms. Lila Jaafar, senior program manager, National Democratic Institute 58
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Mr. Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.: Prepared statement 10
Mr. Charles Dunne: Prepared statement 35
Mr. Sam LaHood: Prepared statement 43
Mr. Patrick Butler: Prepared statement 56
Ms. Lila Jaafar: Prepared statement 60
Hearing notice 84
Hearing minutes 85
Written response from Mr. Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., to question sub-
mitted for the record by the Honorable Doug Collins, a Representative
in Congress from the State of Georgia 86
THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN
THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 o’clock a.m., in
room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. The subcommittee will come to order.
I know that many of our members are in other committees so
they will be scooting back and forth during our hearing. So please
excuse our absence at any time during your testimony and don’t
think it has anything to do with you.
It might have to do with you but not the others. But after recog-
nizing myself and Ranking Member Deutch or Mr. Connolly, if Mr.
Deutch is not here promptly, for 5 minutes each for our opening
statements, I will then recognize other members seeking recogni-
tion for 1 minute.
We will then hear from our first witnesses and without objection
the witnesses’ prepared statements will be made a part of the
record and members may have 5 days to insert statements and
questions for the record subject to the length limitation in the
Following the completion of our first panel, I will then introduce
our second panel of witnesses and their prepared statements will
also be made a part of the record. The chair now recognizes herself
for 5 minutes.
Egypt has long been considered a key state for U.S. national se-
curity objectives in the Middle East and North Africa and for over
30 years our two nations have shared strategic military and polit-
For its part, Egypt reached a peace agreement with Israel in
1979 and since then the United States has provided Egypt with bil-
lions of dollars in military and economic assistance.
In return, Egypt keeps the peace with its neighbor and our stra-
tegic ally, the democratic Jewish state of Israel, and it also pro-
vides us with access to the Suez Canal that gives us a critical route
for transit between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf or the
But today’s Egypt isn’t the Egypt of ’79 or even 2009. When the
Arab Spring began, few thought Mubarak would fall. Mubarak was
( 1 )
forced to step down and Egypt was finally able to begin the transi-
tion toward freedom and democracy.
But Egypt was a society that never had any experience with de-
mocracy. There was no foundation for democracy and governance,
civil society, rule of law. They were just millions of Egyptians who
knew that they wanted something better and they just didn’t know
how to achieve it.
Perhaps sensing that the time to open Egyptian society was near,
the United States Government began to fund democracy and gov-
ernance programs in Egypt a little over a decade ago.
What started out as a relatively modest program with lofty goals
and objectives, the Arab Spring of 2011 and the Egyptian street’s
response proved that there was indeed the need and the desire for
such programs in Egypt.
That year, the U.S. Government increased our funding for de-
mocracy and governance from $13 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to
$72 million in Fiscal Year 2011. Due to the ongoing unrest that
later became the Egyptian Revolution, the Egyptian Government
began to strongly object to some of the U.S. Government’s planned
democracy and governance programs and the Ministry of Justice
began targeting or implementing partners in Egypt.
Then in December 2011, Egyptian authorities raided the office of
17 local and foreign NGOs including four American NGOs who
were implementing U.S. -funded programs — Freedom House, Na-
tional Democratic Institute, NDI, the International Republican In-
stitute, IRI, and the International Center for Journalists, ICFJ.
Forty- three of the employees of these NGOs were arrested and
they were charged with operating offices in Egypt without being
registered and receiving foreign funds without the approval of the
Despite the ever-changing fragile state of Egypt’s transition to
democracy, from the time of the arrests until the time they were
convicted in June of last year, the one constant that remained was
that these 43 individuals were pawns in a politically-motivated dis-
pute between the Egyptian and the U.S. Government.
The NGOs were merely doing their job and operating how they
believed to be in accordance with Egyptian law yet they were ar-
rested, they were tried, they were convicted in a politically moti-
vated operation and many people may think that because we got
the Americans out of the country and back to the United States
that their struggles are over.
But that is not remotely the case. This conviction has loomed
over the heads like the sword of Damocles, as they have to live
their lives in constant worry of the repercussions.
That is why in June 2013, my colleague, Gerry Connolly, and I
requested that GAO conduct a review of U.S. economic and security
assistance to Egypt. GAO will present today their findings of the
first phase of the report that deals with the NGO and civil society
Today’s hearing is important to tell their stories and let us know
how this has impacted the lives of these 43 and their families and
how it has impacted U.S. democracy and governance programs in
Egypt and elsewhere.
Our witnesses deserve to be heard. We need to hear their story
because the fight for civil society, the fight for democracy, for gov-
ernance, for rule of law and human rights in Egypt is nowhere
The transition to democracy is still fragile and al-Sisi has a long
hard row ahead. One of the easiest ways that he can prove to
Egyptians and the U.S. that he is serious about this task is to im-
mediately and unconditionally pardon the 43 NGO workers.
We have seen mass arrests and we have already seen journalists
from A1 Jazeera arrested and sentenced to 7 to 10 years in jail.
These are not signs of a open inclusive society that respects human
Just because Egypt lives up to its obligations under the peace
treaty with Israel doesn’t mean that the United States will con-
tinue to provide assistance unconditionally and disregard human
rights conditions because we will not do that.
While we recognize Egypt’s commitment to the Sinai and security
threats, there must be an improvement in Egypt’s human rights
record and it must take steps to advance the aspiration of the peo-
ple of Egypt toward democracy.
And with that, I would like to yield 5 minutes for an opening
statement from Mr. Connolly.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I certainly
associate myself with everything you have just said. It has been a
privilege to work with you on this matter and am requesting the
GAO study in question after the conviction of 41 employees of four
non-governmental organizations in June 2013.
The NGOs, which included the National Democratic Institute,
the International Republican Institute, the Freedom House and
International Center for Journalists were operating in Egypt with
direct U.S. funding. We have provided over $140 million for democ-
racy assistance in Egypt since 2009.
The Egyptian Government had previously objected to NGOs re-
ceiving this direct funding. In what is perceived as retaliation for
the U.S. continuance the NGO offices were raided in December
2011 and an investigation ensued.
U.S. State Department put together a concerted effort to provide
the NGOs with diplomatic, legal and financial assistance for their
defense. In an unfortunate miscarriage of justice, the 41 charged
employees were convicted and sentenced to 1 to 5 years in prison.
These wrongfully convicted NGO employees have since had to
live with the burden and stigma of a court conviction in their
records. Given this episode and for several other reasons, count me
a skeptic on Egypt’s commitment to promoting civil society.
The military coup in July 2013 and the subsequent brutal crack-
down against dissidents was a clear message to the United States
that the democratic transition in Egypt was all but over.
Since the coup, 16,000 people have been jailed and 2,500 Egyp-
tian citizens have been slaughtered in the streets in confrontation
with government forces. Congress, fortunately, issued a response to
the violence when it included in the Fiscal Year 2014 omnibus ap-
propriations bill a requirement that the Secretary of State must
certify that Egypt is meeting its commitment to democratic transi-
tion and taking steps to govern democratically prior to the release
of certain military assistance.
While the Secretary has certified Egypt is upholding its peace
treaty with Israel and its strategic commitments to the United
States, he has yet to certify Egypt’s commitment to democracy, un-
It is not difficult to see why. The same military that executed the
violent suppression of dissent was afforded further power and au-
tonomy under the constitution adopted just this past January.
Since the election of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the former commander
in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, government actions have pro-
vided further cause for concern. In response to the conviction of
three journalists in June, Secretary Kerry responded, “Today’s ver-
dicts fly in the face of the essential role of civil society, a free press
and a real rule of law.”
“I call,” the Secretary said, “on the President to make clear pub-
licly his government’s intention to observe Egypt’s commitment to
the essential role of civil society, a free press and the rule of law.”
That is our Secretary of State.
I welcome statements from the administration that call out this
regression in Egypt. I hope our witnesses today from the four pros-
ecuted NGOs can provide guidance on how we return to a path to-
ward democracy in Egypt.
The draft law and associations released on June 26th by Egypt’s
Ministry of Social Solidarity does not engender such confidence and
its commitment to civil society by the Egyptian Government.
The law would allow the government to dissolve NGOs that
“threaten national unity,” and inspect their office spaces. Sound fa-
Human Rights Watch has deemed the measure the death knell
of NGO independence in Egypt. The organizations represented by
our witnesses have institutional knowledge about operating in that
country and I would like to know how this new Egyptian legislation
would further hinder NGOs that have taken up the cause simply
of trying to promote democratic civil society in Egypt.
I fear that answer will not be a helpful one. Congress must con-
sider this and other developments as we weigh requests for contin-
ued financial and military assistance as part of an important bilat-
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Connolly.
I would like to tell Mr. LaHood that this is a baby friendly com-
mittee so you should get that little one back. We like those sounds.
So pleased to yield 1 minute to Mr. Wilson of South Carolina.
Mr. Wilson. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thank you for
your strong support in promoting democracy in Egypt. Egypt is a
very important and appreciated friend of the United States. I know
first hand of the extraordinary people of Egypt.
My dad passed through the Suez Canal in 1944, as he was a Fly-
ing Tiger on the way to serve in India and China, and recently my
son, Julian, served with the South Carolina Army National Guard
in Operation Bright Star in Egypt and he was very, very impressed
by the positive people of Egypt.
We have high hopes for the people of Egypt, one of the world’s
great civilizations and I want to again thank you for having this
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you to your family for their service.
Thank you, Mr. Wilson. And now I would like to allow Mr. Deutch
for his opening statement 5 minutes.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and I would
like to particularly thank you and Congressman Connolly for your
leadership on this issue over the past year, in particular.
Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today and I welcome
back Mr. Johnson. Thanks to you and your colleagues at GAO for
the great and important oversight work that your agency provides.
It has been a little over a year since the convictions against four
American NGOs were handed down by the Egyptian court. Employ-
ees of these organizations were accused of political subversion, en-
gaging in political activity and receiving unauthorized funds from
a foreign source.
These are still dubious accusations at best and the convictions
deeply trouble me. Many of us are still hopeful that the election of
President Sisi can set the country back on a democratic path but
it is difficult to see a way forward if these convictions are allowed
The United States has spent tens of millions of dollars annually
on democracy and governance programs in Egypt and from 2009
until March 2014 funding for these programs totaled $140 million
and our spending on these projects jumped from $13 million in Fis-
cal Year 2010 to about $72 million the following year, reflecting the
hope that the people’s revolution could lead to important demo-
cratic changes in the country.
Instead, we saw the election of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood gov-
ernment which led to a brutal crackdown on civil society and a se-
vere restriction of human rights. Ultimately, the raid on the four
U.S. -based NGO offices in December 2011 led to the conviction of
43 NGO employees, Americans and Egyptians, in June 2013.
These NGO programs were intended to increase space for and
widespread participation in civil society organizations. Instead,
that space is dramatically constricted as U.S. -linked organizations
were accused of foreign interference.
The persecution and the prosecution of NGO workers is unac-
ceptable. It was unacceptable under Morsi and it is unacceptable
under President Sisi.
The United States must send a clear and consistent signal to the
Egyptian Government and whoever is in power to the Egyptian
people and to the world that fundamental democratic principles
such as the rights of assembly and association must be upheld.
Many of us were troubled in November 2013 when the govern-
ment passed the protest law which banned public gatherings that
were over 10 people without a permit.
Egyptians are now facing a draft law on associations that would
impose severe restrictions on civil society organizations and subject
to undue oversight and interference by the government. Let me be
clear. I fully support our relationship with Egypt.
It is a critical strategic relationship. But I urge the government
to avoid any actions that will stifle civil society or restrict basic
democratic freedoms for its people. The country has undergone
many changes in the past 3 years and I am hopeful for a brighter
and more prosperous Egypt.
The government has maintained its promises to move quickly to-
ward elections, but as we all said 2 and 3 years ago an election
doesn’t make a democracy. This government must be responsive
and it must be inclusive.
At the same time, U.S. Government policies must reflect the
shifting environment. Our policies have to be able to predict and
effectively respond to the actions of Egyptian Government.
Mr. Johnson, in your testimony you refer to the GAO rec-
ommendation that State Department and USAID should determine
lessons learned from the NGO incident and incorporate them into
I look forward to hearing how we can ensure that the kind of
work that we want to do with civil society can continue while en-
suring that those on the ground have the necessary protections
that they need.
Now, I know that there are those who believe that the U.S.
should disengage from countries when there seem to be discrep-
ancies between their approach to democracy on a daily basis and
our own, particularly if those countries are far away.
But I firmly believe that our partnership with Egypt is vital to
ensuring the security of this country. Cooperation with the United
States and our regional partners like Israel and Jordan on security
issues is just one piece of that puzzle.
A strong, stable and prosperous Egypt can serve as an anchor in
a volatile region and we have to seek a balance in our relationship
To our witnesses and the organizations you represent, thank you
for the work you are doing around the world to build civil society,
to strengthen the rule of law and governance and to promote
The prosecution and conviction of these 43 men and women
should remind us that the work that you do is not easy and we are
grateful for your efforts, and I yield back.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Deutch.
Mr. Rohrabacher is recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much.
We should note that many of the things that we will be judging
Egypt on are not going to be based on what has happened during
a time of turmoil where you have a change of authority in govern-
Egypt came this close to being dominated by a radical Islamic
philosophy that would have destroyed the chances for peace and
stability anywhere in the Middle East, especially in dealing with
the Israeli conflict that is going on right now between the Israelis
and the Palestinians.
And the people of Egypt went into the streets by the hundreds
of thousands and, joined by the military, decided they were not
going to have a radical Islamic caliphate controlling their country.
During that time, when that was being prevented, yes, there
were people — many people who were arrested who would not be ar-
rested under normal circumstances and it is time now, however, for
those of us who support a democratic and stable and positive Egypt
to join with others in the demand — not the demand but the request
of the current government to start going back toward real demo-
cratic principles and they could start, for example, by releasing
these 43 NGO workers that were arrested and by releasing the six
journalists that are now being held in Egypt that President al-Sisi
now says was a mistake to have them arrested in the first place.
So let us hope — let us not judge Egypt on what happened during
this time of turmoil as they were changing and trying to get away
from a radical Islamic caliphate and toward a more democratic so-
ciety. Let us now judge them as they build their democratic society
and judge them based on how they do with this things like this.
Thank you very much for your leadership, Madam Chairman.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mr. Cicilline is recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I want to
thank you and Ranking Member Deutch for calling this very impor-
tant and timely hearing on the state of civil society in Egypt and
I particular want to thank you, Chairman and Congressman
Connolly for your early leadership and requesting the review and
report, which we will hear about today.
Egypt has been an important and long-time ally of the United
States and receives $1.3 billion in military aid each year. Yet de-
spite public statements supporting democratic changes, the mili-
tary-led government has failed to carry out many basic reforms
that would signal its commitment to rule of law, human rights and
The egregious case of the four organizations before us today is
just one example. Though this case began under a different govern-
ment also led by the military, the current leadership has done
nothing to rectify it.
Meanwhile, the staff involved have had their lives threatened,
their families harassed, their reputations questioned and some
have had to flee the country to avoid prison.
Since the al-Sisi government took over, civil societies have faced
harassment, journalists have been imprisoned and more than
16,000 political prisoners have been detained. Political reform
takes time, to be sure, but Egypt is not on a good trajectory at this
point in time, and I look forward to hearing the testimony pre-
sented today, particularly the panelists’ views on how the United
States can productively support reforms that protect fundamental
human rights in Egypt, and I yield back.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Cicilline.
Seeing no further requests for time, our subcommittee is de-
lighted to welcome back Mr. Michael Johnson, who is the senior ex-
ecutive and director of international affairs and trade at the U.S.
Government Accountability Office.
In this role, he assesses U.S. counterterrorism and security ef-
forts focusing on Afghanistan, Pakistan and other terrorist state
Prior to this position, Mr. Johnson was an assistant director in
GAO’s homeland security and justice team, and he also spent a
year detailed to the House of Representatives Homeland Security
Committee, you poor thing.
Was that under Peter King? Oh, that has got to hurt. Thank you
Mr. Connolly. He used to have hair then, Madam Chairman.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Johnson. You are recognized
and your prepared statement will be made a part of the record.
STATEMENT OF MR. CHARLES MICHAEL JOHNSON, JR., DIREC-
TOR, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTERTERRORISM
ISSUES, INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS & TRADE TEAM, U.S. GOV-
ERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE
Mr. Johnson. Thank you, Madam Chair. Madam Chairwoman
Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Deutch and members of the sub-
committee, I am pleased to be here today to return before the sub-
committee to discuss the results of our report being released today
on U.S. democracy assistance efforts in Egypt.
This report focuses on three issues — first, the extent to which the
U.S. Government can identify and manage the risks of providing
direct assistance through the Democracy Assistance Program in
Egypt; second, the types of support that the U.S. Government pro-
vided to the nongovernmental organizations; the extent to which
the U.S. Government Democracy Assistance Program was affected
by the prosecution of NGOs. But before I get into the specific find-
ings of that report I would like to provide a little context.
For over 30 years, as you have noted, the Egyptian Government
has been a key U.S. partner, receiving billions of dollars in U.S.
economic and military assistance. For over a decade, the U.S. Gov-
ernment has funded democracy assistance in Egypt at the tune of
approximately $140 million since Fiscal Year 2009.
This included direct funding to NGOs totaling about $65 million
after the January 2011 revolution which ended, as you know, the
Mubarak presidency. The Egyptian Government, however, objected
to how the U.S. was providing this assistance to NGOs, asserting
that the U.S. was violating the terms of an agreement of process
that the two governments had outlined.
The Egyptian Government raided, as you noted, the offices of
several NGOs including four U.S. NGOs, and charged and con-
victed employees of these four organizations with, among other
things, operating an unauthorized organization in Egypt.
The U.S. Government noted its disagreement with the actions
and the efforts and views of the Egyptian Government. With re-
spect to the findings outlined in the report being released today,
first, I would like to note regarding the efforts to identify the man-
aged risks we did find consistent with State Department and
USAID and Federal internal control standards that the U.S. Gov-
ernment had identified and took some steps to manage the risk of
funding democracy assistance in Egypt. Some of that effort goes
back to 2005.
This included awareness of the Egyptian Government’s likely ob-
jection to the U.S. plans to directly fund NGOs after the 2011 revo-
lution. We do note, however, in our report that State and USAID
had not done enough to document and incorporate the lessons
learned from the experience in Egypt. Applying lessons learned, as
we previously reported, can among other things inform future deci-
sions helped to inform future work processes and activities and
provide a way forward.
Second, and related to NGO support, a report that the U.S. Gov-
ernment had provided the four prosecuted NGOs with diplomatic,
legal, financial and grant flexibility support. With respect to diplo-
matic support, this included holding multiple meetings with Egyp-
tian officials to try to defend or prevent the prosecution of NGO
Legal support included working with NGO lawyers to develop
legal strategies. Financial support allowed the four NGOs to use
about $4.9 million in grant funding to pay for various legal costs.
NGOs were also allowed to modify their grants, to adjust their
planned activities and time lines.
Third, we report that the prosecution of NGOs did in fact affect
U.S. democracy assistance in Egypt. More specifically, the four
prosecuted U.S. NGOs currently cannot operate and conduct activi-
ties inside Egypt and these NGOs had to cancel some activities
such as election observations, voter education and political party
As the figure you will see that is being projected shows, since the
start of the NGO trials in 2012 the amount of U.S. funding for de-
mocracy in governance projects in Egypt has decreased, going from
a high of about $72 million in Fiscal Year 2011, as some of the
members noted, to about $6 million in Fiscal Year 2013, its lowest
level during the 2009-2013 time frame.
The number of awards, as the figure also shows, also declined
during the same period, from a high of about 100, as the figures
shows, in Fiscal Year 2011, to a low of about 15 is Fiscal Year
In closing, we recommend in our report that the Secretary of
State and the USAID administrator take steps to incorporate les-
sons learned from the U.S. experience in Egypt into plans for man-
aging aggressive future democracy assistance efforts. The State De-
partment and USAID both concur with our recommendation.
I thank the subcommittee for the opportunity to testify today and
also would like to personally thank the GAO staff who traveled
with me in Egypt — Ryan Vaughn, Drew Lindsey, and Rachel
Dunsmoorfor their efforts on this particular engagement. This con-
cludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to answer any
questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson follows:]
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 10:00 a.m. ET
Thursday, July 24, 2014
United States Government Accountability Office
Before the Subcommittee on the
Middle East and North Africa,
Committee on Foreign Affairs, House
Lessons Learned from
Egypt Should Inform Future
Statement of Charles Michael Johnson, Jr,, Director,
International Affairs and Trade
Madam Chair Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Deutch, and Members of
I am pleased to be here today to discuss U S. democracy assistance
efforts in Egypt and the effect of the prosecutions of U.S.-funded
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on these efforts.
For over 30 years, Egypt has been a key strategic partner of the United
States and the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. economic and military
assistance. Since 2011, Egypt has undergone a series of political
transitions, beginning with the January 201 1 revolution that ended the
nearly 30-year presidency of Hosni Mubarak. The U.S. government has
funded democracy and governance activities in Egypt for over 10 years
and awarded approximately $140 million in total for this assistance from
fiscal year 2009 to March 31 , 2014. The principal U.S. agencies engaged
in these efforts, the Department of State (State) and the U.S. Agency for
International Development (USAID), have funded a variety of activities —
including political party strengthening, election monitoring, and
independent media development — to be implemented by a range of U.S.
and Egyptian organizations. The U.S. government increased the amount
of funding it awarded in Egypt for democracy and governance assistance
from approximately $13 million in fiscal year 2010 to approximately $72
million in fiscal year 2011. This funding included an increase in direct
funding to NGOs totaling about $65 million after the 2011 revolution.
The Egyptian government, however, objected to the United States
providing this assistance directly to NGOs, noting its view that USAID was
violating the terms of a process that the two governments had outlined in
2004. In 2005, Congress approved an amendment to the Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2005 (the “Brownback Amendment”), which stated
that for U.S. assistance for democracy and governance activities in Egypt,
the organizations implementing such assistance and the specific nature of
the assistance shall not be subject to prior approval of the Government of
Egypt. 1 U.S. government officials responded to Egyptian government
concerns about funding democracy and governance programs by saying
that they were interpreting their commitments based on the conditions
1 Similar language has been included in subsequent appropriations bills. Starting with the
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, the Brownback Amendment requirements have
applied globally. The most recent version of the amendment was contained in the
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, Pub L. No. 113-76, 128 Stat. 5 (2014).
applied by the Brownback Amendment and agreement in diplomatic
discussions on direct funding to NGOs.
In December 2011, the Egyptian government raided the offices of four
U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations (NGO) that were
implementing U.S.-funded democracy and governance activities. In
February 2012, the Egyptian government charged these four
organizations — Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists
(ICFJ), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the National
Democratic Institute (NDI) — and a German organization, the Konrad
Adenauer Foundation, with establishing and operating unauthorized
international organizations, according to U S. agency documents. In June
2013, an Egyptian court convicted a total of 43 employees from the four
U.S. organizations and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation of the charges,
and the NGOs had to close their operations in Egypt. After a series of
negotiations between the U.S. and Egyptian governments, all the
American staff from the NGOs were allowed to leave Egypt before the
This statement summarizes the findings of our report 2 — released at this
hearing— examining (1) the extent to which the U.S. government
identified and managed potential risks of providing U.S. democracy and
governance assistance in Egypt, including assistance to unregistered
NGOs; 3 (2) what support, if any, the U.S. government provided to the
NGOs prosecuted by the Egyptian government; and (3) the extent to
which U.S. democracy and governance assistance in Egypt has been
affected, if at all, by the prosecution of NGO workers. We conducted work
2 GAO, Democracy Assistance: Lessons Learned from Egypt Should Inform Future U.S.
Plans, GA0 14 793 (Washington, D.C.: Jul. 24, 2014).
3 Forthe purposes of this report, we are defining unregistered NGOs as those
organizations considered by the Egyptian government to be NGOs that have either ( 1 ) not
attempted to register with the Ministry of Social Solidarity (local NGOs) or to obtain a
standing agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (foreign NGOs), or (2) attempted
to register through one of these means, but did not receive an explicit confirmation of their
approved registration from the Egyptian government. For the purposes of this report, we
are defining registered NGOs as those organizations considered by the Egyptian
government to have a standing agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or that have
been registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity. This definition of unregistered is
used solely for the purpose of this report and does not imply or indicate any U.S.
government position on the compliance or noncompliance of any organization with
on this report as part of a broader review of U.S. economic and security
assistance to Egypt, which we plan to complete later in 2014.
Our work for the report on which this statement is based was conducted
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.
In this report, we found that, while the U.S. government identified
potential risks in providing democracy and governance assistance in
Egypt, State and USAID have not documented lessons learned from the
U.S. experience in Egypt and have not incorporated these lessons into
their future plans for democracy and governance assistance. Both State’s
Foreign Affairs Manual and USAID's Automated Directives System
emphasize the need for the agencies to identify and assess potential risks
to their programs. State and USAID guidance also calls for the
development of risk management plans for their programs. Consistent
with State and USAID policies and internal control standards, 4 the U.S.
government identified potential risks in providing democracy and
governance assistance in Egypt dating back to 2005— including the
awareness of the Egyptian government’s likely objection to the U.S. plan
to use $65 million to directly fund NGOs shortly after the revolution in
2011. We also found that, consistent with their policies, State and USAID
have taken some steps to manage the risks of providing democracy and
governance assistance in Egypt, including issuing an April 2013 cable
with guidance on how to counter increasing risks to NGOs globally.
However, we found that State and USAID have not documented lessons
learned from the U.S. experience in Egypt and incorporated these
lessons into their risk management plans for future democracy and
governance assistance. In previous work, we reported that lessons
learned are important in planning agencies’ activities. Specifically, the use
of lessons learned is a principal component of an organizational culture
committed to a continuous improvement, which could help ensure that
beneficial information is factored into planning, work processes, and
4 State, Foreign Affairs Manual, 2 FAM 020 and USAID, Automated Directives System,
ADS Chapter 201. GAO, The Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government,
GAC/AIMD-00-21 .3.1 (Washington, D.C.: November 1999).
activities. Lessons learned provide a powerful method of sharing good
ideas for improving work processes, quality, and cost-effectiveness.
We also reported that the U.S. government provided the four prosecuted
U.S. NGOs with diplomatic, legal, financial, and grant flexibility support.
The U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts included holding multiple
meetings with Egyptian officials to try to defend the NGO employees. U.S.
legal support to the NGOs included working with the NGOs’ lawyers to
develop legal strategies for the case. U.S. financial support allowed the
four U.S. NGOs to use a total of $4.9 million in funding from their grants
to pay for various legal costs related to the trial. Finally, State and USAID
also approved other grant modifications to allow the organizations to
modify their programming when various planned activities became
unfeasible because of the trials.
In addition, we reported that the Egyptian government's prosecution of
the four U.S. NGOs affected U.S. democracy and governance assistance
in Egypt in 2012. Currently, the four prosecuted U.S. NGOs are no longer
conducting activities inside Egypt and have modified or stopped a number
of their programs. Other NGOs implementing U.S. democracy and
governance programs reported experiencing delays in obtaining Egyptian
government approval to receive U.S. funds, and some withdrew from their
grants, as a result. Since the start of the trial in 2012, the amount of
funding and number of grants awarded for democracy and governance
projects in Egypt has also decreased, going from a high of about $72
million in fiscal year 2011 to its lowest level during the 2009-2013 time
frame of about $6 million in fiscal year 2013 (see fig. 1). Also, the number
of awards for new activities has declined during this time period, from a
high of 100 in fiscal year 201 1 to a low of 15 in fiscal year 2013.
Figure 1 : New U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department
of State (State) Democracy and Governance Awards or Funding Actions in Egypt,
Fiscal Years 2009-2013
U.S. dollars (in millions) Awards I funding actions
Source' GAO analysis of State and USAID data. | GAO-14-7B3T
Note: Fiscal year breakdowns are based on the fiscal year in which the award/program started.
Awards may draw upon funding appropriated in multiple fiscal years.
In our report, to help ensure that State and USAID are better positioned to
respond to unintended or adverse consequences related to their future
democracy and governance assistance in Egypt and other countries, we
recommend that the Secretary of State and the Administrator of USAID
take steps to identify lessons learned from their experiences in Egypt and
work to incorporate these lessons into plans for managing risks to their
future democracy and governance assistance efforts. State and USAID
concurred with our recommendation.
In closing, the United States and Egypt have been longstanding military
and political allies over the past 30 years, with the United States providing
billions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt and
partnering with Egypt on a range of security efforts in the region. The U.S.
government has stated its intent to continue to support Egypt’s and other
countries’ progress toward democracy but may likely continue to face
risks in implementing such assistance in Egypt and other parts of the
world. While the U.S. government cannot ensure that there will be no
unintended or adverse consequences in providing democracy and
governance assistance, it can take steps, as it has done in Egypt
consistent with agency policies, to identify and manage potential risks. As
such, it is vital that the U.S. government take steps to apply lessons
learned from past experiences in Egypt as it moves forward with funding
future democracy and governance assistance efforts.
Madam Chair Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Deutch, and Members of
the Subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be
pleased to answer any questions that you may have at this time.
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Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Charles Michael
Johnson. Thank you.
We just had the pleasure of receiving your testimony last month
on our reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan — we thank you for
that — and your GAO team’s assessment of our oversight and ac-
countability of U.S. assistance there in Afghanistan, and while this
report is focused on our democracy and governance programs in
Egypt, your report has a certain similarity to the previous one.
You reported that even though State and USAID have been re-
ceptive to your recommendations — and from looking at the report
you paint both agencies in a good light in terms of how they re-
acted to the NGO trial in Egypt and how they supported the four
NGOs and their employees — but there is still a lingering problem
with the access that you were given.
You told us at the last hearing that it would be helpful if State
and USAID granted your team more timely access to the docu-
ments that you had requested and I am seeing that same theme
in this report.
Could you comment on how this issue — timely access to docu-
ments — impacts your work?
Mr. Johnson. Yes. I would like to note that we continue to expe-
rience some challenges in getting timely access. The process in par-
ticular for getting access from both USAID and State in particular
on this Egypt engagement was quite burdensome and difficult.
They were — you know, both agencies required, as I noted in my
last testimony, our employees to go to a reading room to look at
They limited our ability to take notes and also to make copies of
the documents as well. This is definitely an unnecessary and bur-
densome type of approach for us to do our work and provide you
guys information in a timely manner.
So we continue to experience some challenges with both agencies.
In particular, Egypt is one of the case studies that we worked out
an agreement with USAID to see how things can be improved and
I would have to say that this case study is not going well at all.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Well, following up on what you just said, you
say that lessons learned from Egypt should inform future U.S.
plans and that Egypt is a model case. But, clearly, this all hap-
pened or the process began several years ago.
Is there any indication that State and USAID identified these
problems in Egypt and began implementing corrective measures
across the board to avoid a future scenario like the one we saw in
Egypt early on in the process and has there been this — or has there
been this slow learning curve?
Mr. Johnson. Well, one thing I want to note is it has been made
clear to us that we have seen this in the work we have done. It
is definitely a challenging situation that the U.S. Government finds
itself in, both State and USAID.
With respect to lessons learned, as I note in my opening state-
ment, they were aware of the risks back in 2005, as early as that
point in time. There have been some actions that have been taken
that they highlight in terms of establishing working groups and
country groups that will look into this issue.
As part of our recommendation we also follow up to see to what
extent is that going to specifically address what we have asked for
and that is to document the lessons learned and to apply those to
future plans going forward.
So we will be monitoring that. I think they have up to 60 days
to respond to their authorizing committees to their specific actions
but they did concur.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Your report and testimony dis-
cusses the U.S. Government’s work with these NGOs and our de-
mocracy in governance programs. During the course of your
fieldwork, though, you interviewed local Egyptian NGO workers
and government officials.
Who did you meet with in Egypt and what did you take away
from that meeting? Do they feel like civil society remains under at-
tack? How does the Egyptian Government describe the case of
these NGOs and their employees?
I remain concerned that they aren’t really sure yet which direc-
tion al-Sisi will take Egypt and the new constitution certainly in-
cluded some good revisions but also some troubling ones. The new
NGO draft law is very troubling and the mass arrests and the
trials aren’t in line with democratic ideals.
One of the most important things that al-Sisi can do to prove to
the international community that he is serious about leading Egypt
into this new era of democracy is to pardon these 43 NGOs and the
U.S. must continue to press this as a top priority.
Al-Sisi says it is not within his power, that he cannot do that.
Can you tell me about who you met with and what is al-Sisi —
should we push him to pardon them or will he not go that way?
Mr. Johnson. We actually had a lot of success in country meet-
ings with various officials, the U.S. Government officials as well as
some of these civil society groups, and in addition we met with
some members of the Egyptian ministries, in particular Dr. Bakr,
who at the time was the deputy minister of international coopera-
Different viewpoints and different perspectives, obviously, as I
noted earlier there is some disagreement between the two parties.
Let me first comment with respect to the meetings we have had
with the U.S. State Department and the USAID representatives.
They made clear to us some of the positions they were taking in
terms of not agreeing completely with the positions that the Egyp-
tian Government was taking and what they were doing to support
the NGOs and in particular to find some relief for those who were
prosecuted. With respect to the Egyptian Government, basically
their position was that the NGOs were in violation of their Egyp-
tian laws in particular and that
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. They were not given a chance to register.
Mr. Johnson. Exactly. That came out of a lot of the focus group
meetings we had. We met with about 17 civil society organizations
in country, had various round tables.
The views were a variety of views but in particular we did hear
quite a bit that the registration process was extremely burdensome
and some had registered as far back as 2006 and were still waiting
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr, Johnson. Very
pleased to yield to the ranking member, my good friend, Mr.
Deutch of Florida.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Mr. Johnson, do State and USAID have the authority to respond
to the kind of risks that they face? Are they — are there regulations,
are there laws that make it more difficult for them to be able to
tackle the challenges that they face — the risks that they face?
Mr. Johnson. In terms of — obviously, foreign policy issues and
how we deal with challenges overseas is the purview of the State
Department as well. That is their role.
In terms of risk mitigation, we have long reported, whether it is
this type of situation or even working in a dangerous environment
that a risk mitigation strategy needs to be in place and taking that,
obviously, the practice that we see many of our agencies undertake
and as we reported is that you need to apply lessons learned and
build on your previous experience in the way forward in terms of
how you proceed.
So in terms of the ability to do it, we definitely believe and we
think that they do have that ability to mitigate risk and to plan
for that risk in advance as they move forward.
Mr. Deutch. And so building on lessons learned in what way
and are there other countries where lessons have been learned that
can be applied here as well?
Mr. Johnson. Yes. I mean, just a month ago I talked about the
lessons learned that the U.S. Government can take from the expe-
rience in Iraq and apply those to Afghanistan. That has been a
long-standing thing that has been mentioned and as we talked
about in that hearing, you know, the shift from the military-led to
civilian-led presence there are lessons learned there.
Similarly, here if we see a situation where the partner country
is not as receptive to democracy, obviously, we have an experience
here as the U.S. is going to face — is likely to face this challenge in
other environments. They need to apply those lessons to those ex-
periences going forward. And even as we go back in and there —
if there is any effort to have conversations and discuss this with
the Egyptian Government, these lessons that we have gone through
need to be a part of that process.
Mr. Deutch. What does that mean? There is a part of the coun-
try that is not as responsive to democracy — what does that mean?
Mr. Johnson. Obviously, we are well aware that some of the
ministries and some of the members of the Egyptian Government
were not as receptive to the types of civil societies that the U.S.
and its NGOs were promoting or even NGOs — even Egyptian
NGOs were promoting and looking forward to. So that needs to be
taken into consideration as we move forward in developing new
Mr. Deutch. What would those policies be and what message
would be helpful coming from here to support those policies?
Mr. Johnson. Well, GAO is not in a position to comment on pol-
icy. That is the purview of the Congress, the administration and
the various agencies. What we would say is that the lessons
learned from Egypt and other experiences need to be applied to
that decision as we move forward.
Mr. Deutch. All right. So then go back to what you can actually
comment on, which is what to learn from those lessons. I appre-
ciate that. We will worry about the policies.
So you make the suggestions, though, on what would actually
matter on the ground for these NGOs and for people who are trying
to build democracy.
Mr. Johnson. Right. I mean, obviously, we have gone through an
experience here and obviously there are different approaches that
we have taken in terms of the types of assistance that is provided.
Those are things that we have an experience in that we can learn
from those lessons going forward.
There are, you know, different types of organizations that we
fund and actually the U.S. has had some success working with the
Egyptian society and actually moving forward on some democracy
assistance efforts. So there are ways that this has worked.
Mr. Deutch. Right. So let us try that again. Give me an example
of something that works that could be used as a model, that could
be replicated elsewhere and
Mr. Johnson. Well, again, just to emphasize, we don’t do policy
but we are aware that there were some organizations that were not
subject to the NGO registration requirement that can also carry
out similar activities. So that is an alternative approach. Obvi-
ously, when we are working in environments that are not condu-
cive or that are challenging we need to find a way to mitigate and,
obviously, that needs to be in the form of these focus groups that
they are talking about pulling together, working groups, can study
the different things that actually may be acceptable, reach some
compromise agreement on those and try to work through the other
means by which we can move forward on other initiatives.
Mr. Deutch. I am uncomfortable, though, with the suggestion
that the way to move forward is to find the groups that have not
been singled out and have not been prosecuted. I would rather fig-
ure out how to avoid having groups who are there to promote de-
Mr. Johnson. And I 100 percent agree with that. What we don’t
want to do is find ourselves in a situation again where we are
doing things ad hoc or we are doing them on the fly as things are
Egypt gives us an opportunity to take these lessons, to document
those lessons when you find yourself in a similar situation in any
other environment to know what actually was effective in terms of
Mr. Deutch. That is great. I appreciate that. Thank you, Madam
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Mr. Weber.
Mr. Weber. Thank you, Mr. Johnson. In reading your remarks,
you said the U.S. Government increased the amount of funding it
awarded to Egypt for democracy and governance assistance from
approximately $13 million in 2010 to approximately $72 million in
2011. This funding included an increase in direct funding to NGOs
totaling about $65 million.
Mr. Johnson. That is correct.
Mr. Weber. I am doing the math and the increase from $13 mil-
lion to $72 million is not $65 million. Did I miss something?
Mr. Johnson. The increase from $13 million.
Mr. Weber. To $72 million.
Mr. Johnson. Okay.
Mr. Weber. And it says this funding included an increase in di-
rect funding to NGOs totaling about $65 million after the 2011 rev-
Mr. Johnson. Right.
Mr. Weber. Okay.
Mr. Johnson. The figure — the combined figure that talks about
it — is approximately $71.6 million in terms of democracy assistance
in 2011. Not all of that would have been direct funding.
The portion we are highlighting in 2011 — the surge, as we would
call it, or the increase — was $65 million in direct funding to the
Mr. Weber. Okay. So in December 2011, according to your testi-
mony, the Egyptian Government raided the offices and, of course,
as we have noted, they arrested and charged. And so now we are
saying that the U.S. organizations and the Konrad Adenauer Foun-
dation and NGOs had to close their operations in Egypt. Is there
Mr. Johnson. As I also noted there are some groups and some
societies that are or have, you know, undertaken some of the civil
society initiatives. There were some efforts that they are currently
no longer able to undertake.
I think the political party strengthening was one of the areas
probably that was impacted that these groups were involved in.
Again, there is a variety of different civil society groups that the
U.S. has funded that are operating there.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And what happens to the $65 million?
Mr. Johnson. The $65 million has been awarded. As I mentioned
earlier, there was some grant flexibility allowed where some of the
organizations were able to do alternative things.
One example is where instead of — I got to be careful how I
present it — some of the information is sensitive and classified —
there were some efforts to do some of the things online as an alter-
native approach to continue to move forward some of the initia-
In addition, some of the time frames were pushed out to allow
the organizations to fulfill their agreement with the grants, in par-
ticular. Some of the financing, as noted earlier, was used to provide
legal assistance or support for legal costs to some of the NGOs.
Mr. Weber. Okay. When you say online that was one of my ques-
tions from later on and that is does Egypt have a robust open
Mr. Johnson. I am not sure if I can comment on whether the
Internet is robust and open. From my own personal experience
there didn’t seem to be a problem in accessing some things through
wireless. But then again, I was in a decent hotel.
Mr. Weber. Sure, the NSA is not reading those emails too. Did
I say that out loud?
Mr. Johnson. I have no comment on that particular issue. I am
not aware of that.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And some say that the United States should
no longer provide aid. Some say we should provide more aid and
they argue that the United States must increase funding for de-
mocracy and human rights, especially at a time when Egypt needs
In your view, how could the U.S. Government best promote the
advancement of human rights including religious freedom in Egypt
and how would you break that spending down?
Mr. Johnson. Okay. The specific human rights issue as a part
of our broader engagement and review that we are going to be un-
dertaking in response to a request from this subcommittee. We will
be reporting hopefully on that issue later. We have a much broader
review. This democracy and governance issue is a smaller subset
so at this time we are not prepared to comment on the human
Mr. Weber. Okay. The head of Egypt’s National Council for
Human Rights called for a delay in passing the law until a new
Parliament is elected. What is that date? Do you know? When is
the new Parliament election?
Mr. Johnson. I believe it is in the fall. In the fall is the time
frame we were given.
Mr. Weber. Do you know the date or the month in the fall?
Mr. Johnson. Let me consult with my staff. Around October of
this year is what we were told. We don’t have a specific date but
October was the month we have been made aware of.
Mr. Weber. Sounds like my grandfather when he was about 90.
I asked him when he was born and he said, “In the spring, I
think.” So all right. Thank you. I yield back.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Mr. Connolly of Vir-
ginia is recognized.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you. My friend, that reminds me of a
story about a man in his 90s, an Irishman, and was asked, you
know, when his birthday was and he said, “You know, March
18th,” and somebody said, “What year?” And he went, “Every
Okay. Mr. Johnson, thank you for being here and thank you for
responding to the chairman’s request and mine. Did you interview
the NGO personnel who were charged and convicted?
Mr. Johnson. Yes, we did.
Mr. Connolly. And what was it they were charged with?
Mr. Johnson. Specifically, I guess, our reading is that they were
charged with operating an unauthorized organization in Egypt.
That was one of the charges. There is some additional insight in
our more sensitive report that you are receiving later today.
Mr. Connolly. Was there not also if not an explicit charge cer-
tainly an implicit charge they were working for a foreign agent,
namely, the United States Government and that that was con-
tradictory to the interest of the Egyptian Government?
Mr. Johnson. We did not specifically see that but I have been
made aware that that has been some of the allegations.
Mr. Connolly. Yes. In fact, I think it was an explicit allegation
made by the minister at the time during the previous administra-
tion. And is it not true that when somebody is tried in an Egyptian
court they are put in a cage? Is that correct?
Mr. Johnson. I don’t have the details of how they are detained.
Mr. Connolly. Take it from me. And it is a very humiliating ex-
perience for a young person. Their families see this. They are
ashamed to go back into their communities and trying to explain
this is a huge burden.
So there is a lot of shame, in addition to the fact you have got
a conviction on your record. The whole process is a degrading and
demeaning process and deliberately so. Is that your understanding?
Mr. Johnson. Some of the views — as I mentioned, we have met
with the four prosecuted NGOs and those in country. Obviously,
they feel as if the situation they were put in was a challenging one.
Mr. Connolly. Did you see any difference between the Morsi
government and the al-Sisi government with respect to this issue?
Mr. Johnson. At the time of our review and in-country visit
there was — Sisi was not in power as the President. We did not see
much of a difference between the Mubarak period and the Morsi
Mr. Connolly. Well, we are now in the al-Sisi period and the
military government has been in power for a year. Are you aware
of any difference? Getting any hints, some emails, some notes,
someone whispering in your ear that maybe this government’s got
a different attitude from the previous two governments with re-
spect to these innocent NGO personnel who have been arrested?
Mr. Johnson. We definitely look forward in the ongoing work we
have underway for you, Congressman, to continue to pursue that
and follow up and update the report based on this time frame we
Mr. Connolly. Yes. I do think this subcommittee is going to be
very interested in the answer to that question because one sense
is there is no difference. You talked about lessons learned and risk
mitigation strategies with respect to State Department and AID.
How did you feel their response was to those two things that you
think are very important as part of your recommendations?
Mr. Johnson. I think they were open to our recommendations so
that is a good sign. I would say, during the course of our work, that
obviously this is a very sensitive topic.
You know, noting — we didn’t go as far as to say there were spe-
cific detail risk mitigation plans but we did give the agencies credit
for identifying risk and taking some steps to manage the risk so
we use the word manage the risk.
Obviously, this goes back, as I said, to 2005. In 2011 or ’13 actu-
ally there was a cable that we referred to in the report that they —
a global cable that was done that began to raise awareness on chal-
lenges to democracy and its assistance globally.
Mr. Connolly. You visited Egypt yourself?
Mr. Johnson. Yes, in March.
Mr. Connolly. In March. And when you visited the Embassy
and our AID mission did you have a strong sense that this was a
high priority issue for them in the great panoply of issues?
Mr. Johnson. I had a strong sense that the entire U.S. Egyptian
relationship was a high priority for the folks there and I got that
viewpoint from our State Department as well as some of the Egyp-
tian Government officials on the defense side.
Mr. Connolly. I am sorry. I didn’t understand your answer. I
am asking about the fate of these 43 individuals
Mr. Johnson. Forty-three.
Mr. Connolly. Is that — did you get the sense when you were
Mr. Johnson. Yes.
Mr. Connolly [continuing]. This is a high priority in the con-
stellation of the relationship?
Mr. Johnson. Yes. I would — I would say we would take that
Mr. Connolly. Good, because I think that is really important
that the Egyptian Government understand that we are not letting
up on this and we do care about these individuals a lot irrespective
of nationality. Thank you very much. Thank you, Madam Chair-
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Connolly, and Mr. Chabot of
Ohio is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Chabot. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and I apolo-
gize for having to come and go. I have got actually three hearings
going on at the same time and I appreciate your patience here.
Mr. Johnson, thank you for your — and I will read your testimony.
I just had a couple of questions here. First of all, I am pleased to
hear that efforts were made to amend the controversial 2012 con-
stitution by referendum in January. However, I, and I know others,
had some concern about the new constitution granting greater
power to the military including military trials of civilians, and if
you have already addressed this issue I apologize. But could you
comment on that issue?
Mr. Johnson. We really didn’t look in detail at that issue in
terms of greater power. That is something — we are going to look —
we have a broader review, as I noted earlier, that we have under-
way for the subcommittee and we are going to look at the entire
U.S. assistance and our relationship on the defense as well as civil-
So at some point we are going to look at — specifically we are fo-
cused on how the U.S. may have adjusted its strategic objectives
in Egypt over time. So we may touch on that issue in our addi-
tional work down the road.
Mr. Chabot. Okay. Thank you. And another issue I wanted to
touch on and I know we have — I heard Mr. Connolly talk about the
NGOs and how the government has been pursuing them and how
that has made their lives in many ways literally hell, even if they
are outside the country and it makes traveling and a whole range
of other things more difficult.
And I had the Egyptian Ambassador in my office recently and we
discussed this and a lot of issues at length, and we obviously give
Egypt a significant amount of aid and it is one of the highest coun-
tries that we do provide that aid, and I have supported that in gen-
eral over the years because they have been a very important ally
and their relationship with Israel and their leadership in normal-
izing relations with Israel has been significant not just to the re-
gion but to the whole world and so I commend them for that.
All that being said, that clearly is one leverage point that we
have with them on this whole NGO issue and resolving it in a
manner that we think would be just and acceptable to all involved.
And, of course, he indicated that it could be — I won’t go into all
the reasons that he gave me in a public forum here but they would
prefer that we not stop the aid until this issue is resolved. Could
you comment on that to the extent that you can in a public forum
Mr. Johnson. Well, the decision to stop or to fund or not fund
is a policy decision that the agency and the administration and the
Congress would have to make.
I guess our primary purpose on this review was to look at what
the U.S. has done to provide some sort of a way forward and our
takeaway on this particular job is to definitely apply these lessons
learned from Egypt from this experience as we decide then what-
ever strategies we use, even if that includes, you know, certification
requirements, withholding funds or conditioning funds, that is a
That is something that we think needs to be considered as we
do this again in other countries or even continue this in Egypt.
Again, that is up to the Congress and the administration to make
Mr. Chabot. Okay. Thank you. Let me just conclude with more
a statement than a question but it seems that a lot of the NGO
personnel who have been prosecuted both Americans and otherwise
that the charges on failing to register or not registering appro-
priately or operating without the proper documentation and those
types of things that it wasn’t at all unusual for this practice to go
on and I don’t think anybody was trying to do anything illicit here
or to break laws intentionally or anything else. They were just try-
ing to provide a service to Egypt that Egypt should be grateful for
rather than coming down so hard.
And this is certainly one of the things that I am going to meas-
ure this new government by — how they deal with this — because I
wasn’t a big fan of the Morsi government and as a Member of Con-
gress and as a former chair of this committee in the last Congress
I was, quite frankly, pleased to see Morsi, who I thought was a real
danger to the country, removed and I don’t necessarily like seeing
a government displaced in extralegal ways.
But in measuring this government, the way they deal with this
is going to be one of the things that I am going to consider very
much on whether — how much my support will be. So thank you
very much and my time has expired.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Chabot. You and
many others as well. Mr. Cicilline is recognized.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Ms. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Johnson. I would like to first focus on your testi-
mony relative to State and USAID’s development of risk manage-
ment plans, and did you find that those assessments that are done
to both develop a risk management plan and to develop, obviously,
plans to mitigate risk are done are country specific and how often
are they updated and do you have a recommendation as to a
change in that policy?
Mr. Johnson. We don’t have a — we did not make a recommenda-
tion to change the policy because the policy actually exists in terms
of them developing country-specific plans.
The issue here for Egypt is that that has not been completed and
I would say that is an issue beyond Egypt and other priority coun-
tries that the U.S. has on its radar as part of our priority.
Several country plans have not been completed despite the fact
that some of the countries may be priorities in terms of U.S. na-
tional security or U.S. foreign relations issues. So that is a chal-
lenge and we have heard that, you know, some of the country
teams and country folks in country actually would welcome such
plans being completed. The lessons learned piece would be a part
of that — should be a part of that. Part of these plans should include
risk management strategies.
Mr. Cicilline. I am going to get to lessons learned in a moment
but what I am asking is very specific. Is it the current practice of
USAID and the State Department to have country-specific plans
that assess the risk to NGOs and suggest — make recommendations
to mitigate that risk?
Mr. Johnson. If it is a best practice in internal control standards
there should be risk mitigation plans. Our programs
Mr. Cicilline. I am asking do they currently — is that protocol
currently in place at USAID and State?
Mr. Johnson. There is a requirement to have the country plans
and as I was noting the country plans should and are required to
have some sort of risk mitigation as part of those.
Mr. Cicilline. Okay. And are they required to be updated regu-
larly, annually or less than that?
Mr. Johnson. It is my thought that those country plans are done
within a range of time of 3 to 5 years.
Mr. Cicilline. Yes. The reason I am raising this it seems to me
that in the world in which we currently live the notion of, A, not
having a plan or not having a plan that is not updated regularly
is useless. I mean, we are talking about environments that are
changing very quickly and it seems to me and I am asking whether
you agree that it would be helpful to obligate USAID and the State
Department to develop risk management plans and to give specific
guidance to NGOs about the work that they might do on the
ground that are country specific and very current.
Mr. Johnson. Again, we didn’t make a recommendation on that
but given they have an existing requirement or policy for the devel-
opment of country plans we would support the notion of those
plans should be routinely updated as a best practice for strategic
planning and risk mitigation planning. So absolutely those things
should be in place and should be routinely updated.
Mr. Cicilline. Okay. Thank you. And Mr. Johnson, you just
mentioned that the conclusion both in your written testimony and
in your testimony today is that there are lessons to be learned and
that both USAID and State should be sure to integrate and share
those lessons within the internal workings of the agency.
But while I recognize we ultimately may get to weigh in on the
public policy surrounding the lessons, presumably you drew some
conclusions about facts on the ground and what in fact those les-
So what lessons — what lessons are there to be learned, recog-
nizing we will decide what the response is in terms of policy but
you, clearly, made some conclusions about what the lessons are?
Mr. Johnson. Well, obviously, there was a lesson learned in
terms of being prepared to provide support to the nongovernmental
organizations and having that strategy planned out in advance.
If you know you are going to a situation where there may be a
challenge to any of the implementing partners or U.S. personnel
you should in advance be planning for how you are going to miti-
gate and counter those challenges or adverse consequences, as we
often say. You just have to do that in advance.
That is the way of further protecting or deciding how you adjust
and make sure you support the U.S. taxpayers’ dollars that they
are not subject to any misuse or indirect use or unintended use. So
absolutely document those things.
Mr. Cicilline. There are other lessons — are there other lessons
that you think are to be learned from what you reviewed in Egypt?
Mr. Johnson. I think there is the discussion that you have with
your partner nation that you are engaging with. Those are things
that we have seen happen, documenting across as we have seen.
As I mentioned, there is this April 2013 cable that lays out some
of the things that they have — were warning others to pay attention
to in the global setting. But we do think State and USAID need
to document all those lessons and what they took away from this
Mr. Cicilline. Well, I would think — just ask if you would give
that some thought and if there are additional lessons to be learned,
recognizing we have an opportunity to respond to it in terms of pol-
icy but having the benefit of what you have identified as important
lessons would be helpful.
Mr. Johnson. Well, I guess just to quickly comment, the activi-
ties that they can — they know they can do can be documented that
are less subject to being criticized or challenged.
Also, alternative ways to deal with some of the challenges should
be documented, knowing that where there are more challenging ef-
forts in certain types of activities should be laid out, those are less
Mr. Cicilline. Madam Chairman, I just want to say — and thank
you again because I think this hearing gives us an opportunity to,
again, reaffirm the ongoing commitment of the United States Con-
gress to press the Egyptian Government to address this issue not
only for the Americans and the American NGOs but for all the in-
dividuals and organizations that are engaged in democracy build-
ing and strengthening of civil society.
And I think that Congressman Connolly’s point that this is some-
thing that we intend to stay on and is important to the American
people, to our country and to our standing in the world.
And I thank you, Madam Chairman and Ranking Member
Deutch, for giving us the opportunity to make that point very clear-
ly, and with that I yield back.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Cicilline.
Mr. Yoho. Thank you, Madam Chair. Mr. Johnson, appreciate
you being here.
Mr. Johnson. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Yoho. I have met with several people from Egypt, you know,
in the roles of Ambassador and associated with the Government of
Egypt and I asked them the sentiment of what they see — their out-
look when they look at America — what do they see, what do they
don’t like of your neighbors in the Middle East. And I was not —
I guess I was a little bit surprised.
He said the sentiment is that America has lost their credibility.
They have lost their way. We don’t know where you stand and the
good will that you had has disappeared and that you meddle too
And then I am reading here the GAO recommendations that the
State and USAID incorporate lessons learned from the experience
in Egypt into risk management plans for future democracies and
government assistance office — or efforts. What have we learned
that we can do differently so that we don’t make the mistakes of
the past, in your opinion?
Mr. Johnson. Again, I would go back and say policy decisions we
leave those up to the agencies, the administration and the Con-
gress. Obviously, being aware, as I mentioned, that State and
USAID were and the U.S. Government was of the views of our
partners are important.
That is something that needs to be documented, and going back
to comments on the country plans our lessons learned is to — in
your priority country area is having those country plans that are
required include risk mitigation plans or documenting some of the
challenges to some of the priorities that we have is important.
I think that is something that we have heard that the country
teams and the folks in the mission would welcome and encourage.
I mean, that is a huge lesson learned that needs to be acted on,
that sometimes you need to prioritize which country plans you do
first and get those done.
Mr. Yoho. But from your experience what do you find? Are you
getting resentment or blowback and the people saying, you know,
you guys just need to back off — let us figure out some of these prob-
I have got something here that says when did the U.S. Govern-
ment first identify the possibility that the Egyptian Government
might oppose U.S. direct funding for democracy assistance?
What that means to me is they don’t want the democracy assist-
ance — we will work these things out — you are meddling too much.
Are you seeing that?
Mr. Johnson. I think we have seen that mentioned by a few in-
dividual government officials who were running some of the min-
istries in Egypt.
In terms of some of the civil society groups we met with in Egypt
who were actually Egyptian NGOs or Egyptian civil society groups
they actually welcome the U.S. assistance and the U.S. efforts in
support in terms of promoting democracy.
Mr. Yoho. Okay. That assistance, is it going — is it effective as
far as are we getting the results that we as a nation that is helping
them out — are we getting the results we want?
Mr. Johnson. Again, looking at — as part of a broader engage-
ment one of our objectives is to look at the results of that and we
haven’t at this stage reported on that in this preliminary work we
But we have seen that there have been several activities that
have been undertaken by the U.S. and some of our foreign NGOs
in terms of political party strengthening, election watching, voter
education — things of that nature.
Mr. Yoho. Okay. With the al-Sisi government are you seeing an
increase in their economic engine? Is it becoming more productive?
Mr. Johnson. We will be looking into that issue as a part of the
Mr. Yoho. But right now have you seen any change?
Mr. Johnson. Our work basically was done prior to his election.
Mr. Yoho. Okay. But has there been a change in the last, say,
Mr. Johnson. There has been
Mr. Yoho. As far as — unemployment, has that gotten better?
Mr. Johnson. All indication from the previous information I
have seen is that it has not gotten as far as we would hope for it
to get as well as the Egyptian people. But, again, they welcome the
U.S. support in helping it to move forward.
Mr. Yoho. All right. How much foreign aid does China give to
Mr. Johnson. I am not aware of that.
Mr. Yoho. Do you see a presence of them over there?
Mr. Johnson. We did not run into any Chinese Government offi-
cials while we were there.
Mr. Yoho. Okay. I know they — China is going around and they
are investing in infrastructures in countries and then they become
great trading partners. I would like to see us do more of that in-
stead of trying to tell them how to run their country.
I know there is a tradeoff there that we are giving foreign aid
that they should follow some guidelines but I think we need to kind
of refocus and do a paradigm shift on how we handle our foreign
aid and I would like to focus on trade and not aid so that we build
an economic engine that we become good trading partners and in
doing so the Egyptian people will have an economy that is growing
and they will have jobs and they will handle a lot of their own
problems on their own. Would you think that is a great way to go?
Mr. Johnson. Once again, the policy decisions we leave up to the
policy makers. But if that is something you would wish for GAO
to look into down the road, have our trade folks
Mr. Yoho. Absolutely. I sure would. I appreciate your time.
Madam Chair, I yield back. Thank you.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Dr. Yoho. Thank you,
Mr. Johnson. I enjoyed having you appear before our subcommittee
again and I know that it won’t be the last time. Thank you very
much for being with us.
Mr. Johnson. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. And I will give time for the second panel to
set up. That will be Mr. Dunne, Mr. LaHood, Mr. Butler and Ms.
Thank you very much for being with us. For our second panel,
we welcome back Mr. Charles Dunne, who is the director of Middle
East and North Africa programs at Freedom House. Prior to joining
Freedom House, he spent 24 years in the Foreign Service serving
throughout the world including Cairo and Jerusalem.
Mr. Dunne has had a distinguished career in public service, serv-
ing as director for Iraq at the National Security Council, as a for-
eign policy advisor at the Joint Staff in the Pentagon and as a
member of the Secretary of State’s policy planning staff. Thank
you, Mr. Dunne.
And then we welcome Mr. Sam LaHood, who joined the Inter-
national Republican Institute, IRI, in August 2010 and relocated to
Cairo, Egypt to be the country director for the IRI Egypt program.
While there, Mr. LaHood witnessed the January 25, 2011 revolu-
tion and helped build the IRI Egypt program into one of the insti-
tute’s largest programs. Mr. LaHood departed Cairo in March 2012,
taking an assignment with the IRI Asia division and he currently
serves as program office for Cambodia and Indonesia. It is a pleas-
ure to see you, Mr. LaHood.
Next, we have Mr. Patrick Butler, who is the vice president for
programs at the International Center for Journalists where he
oversees the development and execution of ICFJ programs and su-
pervises program personnel in addition to conducting training him-
He was previously the program director and director of training
at the International Center for Journalists. We welcome you, Mr.
And our last presenter will be Ms. Lila Jaafar, who is the senior
program manager with the National Democratic Institute, focusing
on the Middle East and North Africa region.
She has more than 10 years of experience developing and imple-
menting programs to strengthen political parties, civil society, elec-
toral processes and the political participation of women and youth
throughout the Arab world. Ms. Jaafar lived in the Middle East for
the past 20 years and from 2007 to 2011 throughout the January
25 revolution she served as NDI’s resident representative in Cairo.
We are so pleased to have a star group of panelists today and
we look forward to your testimony. Thank you for everything that
you do to promote democracy and freedom worldwide, and we will
begin with you, Mr. Dunne, and your written statements will be
made a part of the record. Feel free to summarize. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MR. CHARLES DUNNE, DIRECTOR, MIDDLE
EAST AND NORTH AFRICA PROGRAMS, FREEDOM HOUSE
Mr. Dunne. Thank you very much, Madam Chairwoman, and
Ranking Member Deutch and other members of the committee. It
is an honor to appear before you once again to discuss the human
rights situation in Egypt and the cost to human rights worker of
the so-called NGO foreign funding case.
And I really want to thank you for your continued interest in
this issue. Given the chaos and tragedy that is going on elsewhere
in the world today, your attention is particularly welcome and very
much appreciated. And you are right — this issue, the issue of the
NGO case — is very important in Egypt.
Why? Should Egypt succeed as a democracy this will bolster
hopes for a stable Middle East. Such a success by example and in
fact would advance the interests of the United States and many
others in peaceful and effective government in a very rough part
of the world.
Now, NGOs play an important role in this. They are vital mon-
itors of politics, enablers of social reform and watchdogs against
the scourges of torture, corruption and other assorted handmaidens
The case against them in Egypt has wreaked havoc on their abil-
ity to do this and to promote human rights and the rule of law in
Egypt — many of these efforts generously funded by the United
Remains of the former regime in Egypt never really went away
and they worked from the first months of the 2011 revolution
against Hosni Mubarak to stage a comeback. In my view, there is
no democratic transition in Egypt today.
On the contrary, it is the reverse. It is a transition back to an
autocracy that would make the Mubarak government look liberal
by comparison. Now, the NGO case was a tactical maneuver in the
grand scheme of Egyptian politics.
I believe it was intended to do a few things — first of all, to put
a scare into the United States about supporting civil society and
the mission of civil society.
It was intended to frighten domestic Egyptian NGOs, which
number in the tens of thousands, from doing work anything re-
motely related to politics, democracy promotion, human rights and
the whole family of issues that we think of as promoting freedom.
Freedom House was subjected to this push back precisely be-
cause our programs were effective. They engaged and empowered
private citizens who worked for and felt they deserved better gov-
ernment and basic civic rights. Now, this case has hurt families
and it has hurt many friends of ours.
Freedom House was forced to cancel grants to several Egyptian
NGOs after our work was banned in the country about a year ago.
Four of our employees were forced to flee for fear of lengthy jail
One has received political asylum in America. Another is in the
process of applying for political asylum, and among them they have
five young children from whom they are effectively exiled.
I am lucky. I was not at the trial. I was not in the cage during
this spurious proceeding. But I do have to travel wherever I go
with a letter from Interpol attesting to the political nature of the
charges and a letter which effectively denies Egypt’s request for an
international arrest warrant — a red notice — for us.
On two separate occasions I have been detained and then once
deported from an Arab country because of these charges. Both of
those visits, by the way, were on work funded by the U.S. Govern-
I have to check with the U.S. Embassy wherever I go in the re-
gion before I travel to ensure that I won’t be arrested at the air-
port. Now, Freedom House’s Egyptian democracy compass has
tracked political developments in the country for the last year.
On practically every front Egypt has regressed. Some members
of the committee mentioned the more than 16,000 people arrested.
There are estimates that have appeared in the Egyptian press of
as many as 41,000 people who have been arrested since the coup
and that says nothing of the many who have been killed — at least
2,500 in protests against the government.
Now, if the United States is serious about supporting civil society
human rights, the rule of law and a real democratic transition in
Egypt, in my view it should do the following things.
First, the United States should insist on pardons for all those
convicted in the NGO case. U.S. taxpayer money should not be
used to subsidize a government that has destroyed American de-
mocracy promotion programs and sentenced U.S. citizens to jail
terms for trying to carry them out.
U.S. should insist on its right guaranteed under international
compacts to freely associate with and fund NGOs.
Second, I believe the United States should reevaluate its basic
relationship with Egypt including military aid and consider shifting
most if not all of that to educational and economic support pro-
And third, the U.S. must publically call out human rights abuses
so as to encourage our friends in civil society and it must tell the
Egyptian Government that we are not willing to continue business
as usual without fundamentally relooking at what our relationship
With that, I thank you and I am happy to take any of your ques-
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dunne follows:]
Testimony of Charles W. Dunne
Director, Middle East and North Africa Programs, Freedom House
United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and
“The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt”
July 24, 2014
Madame Chair, Ranking Member Deutsch, and members of the committee:
It is an honor to appear before you once again to discuss the human rights situation
in Egypt, the toll on American interests and the cost to the human rights workers in
Egypt of the so called NGO “foreign funding case.” I thank you for your continued
interest in this issue.
The so called NGO “foreign funding case” has wreaked havoc on democracy
promotion efforts in Egypt. This was, of course, the intent. Remains of the “deep
state” never went away, and worked from the first months of the revolution to
stage a comeback. To secure their wealth, their privileges, and above all the power
to rule the country and dictate to all those who led the revolution against Mubarak,
they worked to undermine the leaders of the revolution and the efforts of civil
society to direct a democratic transition, and to make clear that the efforts of all
those who sought a new political beginning were in vain. So far they have
succeeded. There is no “democratic transition” in Egypt today. On the contrary, it
is the reverse: there is a transition back to an autocracy that would make Mubarak
seem liberal in comparison.
How did we get to this point with a country that has been our friend and ally for so
many years, and with whom we have had a generous and productive relationship?
It’s hard to say, but here are my views.
With the breakup of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian military-- which controls
approximately 40 percent of the Egyptian economy and holds the balance of power
in all national -level political deliberations- saw its opportunity when the
revolution arrived. Long opposed to the ascension of Gamal Mubarak, Hosni
Mubarak’s son, they jumped to reshape Egyptian politics in a manner to their
liking. Thus, they were instrumental in pushing Mubarak out, and hovered over
Egyptian politics until the coup against Mohamed Morsi, the first freely elected
president in Egypt’s history. His misrule gave the military enough rope to hang the
government of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Freedom House played but a small part in bringing about political change. We
helped citizens monitor elections free of government minders. We worked to teach
a new generation of civic activists how to use tactics birthed in Eastern Europe to
work toward peaceful political reform. We fought against torture and helped
educate Egyptians about their rights as citizens. We worked with a completely
Egyptian staff and with a wide range of Egyptian partner organizations. When we
were raided on December 29 , 2012 , it came as shock, inasmuch as we had
submitted all the necessary paperwork to complete the process of registration just
two days before.
The NGO case was a tactical maneuver in the grand scheme of Egyptian politics.
It was intended, 1 believe, to put a scare into the United States about involving
itself in the Egyptian domestic political scene. It was intended to discourage
efforts by international NGOs to help the work of Egyptian democracy. And it was
intended to frighten domestic Egyptian NGOs, which number in the tens of
thousands, from doing political work. We were subjected to this pushback
precisely because our programs were effective: they engaged and empowered
private citizens who worked for, and felt they deserved, better government and
basic civic rights.
Leaving politics aside, what have been the effects of this case?
It has hurt families and many friends of ours. Freedom House has been forced to
cancel grants to several Egyptian NGOs after our work was banned in the country.
Four of our employees were forced to flee the country for fear of lengthy jail
sentences. One has received political asylum in America. Another is in the process
of applying. Yet another was able to return to his home country — not Egypt— but
only after high-level intervention by the United States with the leader of his
country to assure that he would not be deported to Cairo. Our employees who have
or are seeking political asylum have five young children among them, effectively
exiling them from their parents, who are not free to go back home to see their
I’m lucky. I was not at the trial, or in the cage where our fellow NGO workers
were tried in a dirty and chaotic courtroom, during these spurious proceedings. But
I do have to travel, wherever I go, with a letter from 1111613501 attesting to the
political nature of the charges, a letter that denies Egypt’s request for an
international arrest warrant. On two separate occasions I have been detained, and
then denied entry, to a North African country because of these charges. I have to
check with the US Embassy when I travel to make sure I won’t be arrested or
deported at the airport.
My deepest concern here is not for me but for Egyptians themselves. Having
served there as a Foreign Service officer for three full years, I came to love the
country, and its people. They deserve better. Unfortunately that’s not what they’re
getting. Freedom House’s “Egypt Democracy Compass” has tracked political
developments in the country for the last year. On practically every front, Egypt has
regressed. By the government’s own estimate, more than 16,000 people have been
swept into jail since the coup. That number is probably low. At least 2,500
hundred have been killed in clashes with the government, including perhaps 1,400
alone in the breakup of the largely peaceful demonstration at Rabaa Square.
Torture and abuse in prison continue unabated. Freedom House downgraded Egypt
to the ranks of the “Not Free” nations in our most recent Freedom in the World
report, after a year in which Egypt was classed as “Partly Free” for the first time in
the history of our report, largely due to the free exercise in electoral democracy.
Egyptian NGOs committed to democracy could play a major role in steering the
government to liberal political change, and drawing the attention of the world to its
successes and shortcoming. But the government of Egypt has moved swiftly to
forestall this possibility. The new NGO law now under consideration is a major
step backwards from Law 84 of 2002, which previously governed the operations of
NGOs, and was clearly an attempt to restrain NGO operations. The new draft
legislation would impose further restrictions on civil society, making it even more
difficult for them to operate in the realm of political reform.
For one thing, the draft law would prohibit activities that “threaten national unity,
public order, [or] public morals,” a loose description than could and will be used to
criminalize any activity the authorities deem objectionable. The draft further limits
NGO activities to “social welfare and development,” which would seem to
preclude democracy promotion and other activities such as anti- corruption and
anti-torture work. The draft also establishes a “Coordinating Committee”
comprising several ministries, which has broad discretion to deny registration to
NGOs which have international connections, and to deny funding fr om
international sources as it sees fit. All in all, the draft law would take control of the
NGO sector in a way that violates the norms of democracy, U.S. interest in a
politically stable and free Egypt, and Egypt’s own commitment s under the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which it is a State Party.
If the United States is serious about democratic change in Egypt, it must do the
• First, it must reevaluate the basis of the relationship, including military aid,
and consider shifting most if not all aid to economic support and
educational programs, which will actually help the Egyptian people. The
U.S. should develop a joint strategy with the E.U. to support inclusive
economic growth, and, importantly, to persuade Gulf allies and Israel to
support both economic growth and democratic reform as pillars of durable
stability in Egypt.
• Second, the United States should insist on pardons for all those convicted in
the NGO case as a prerequisite for deliveries of further assistance. U.S.
taxpayer money should not subsidize a government that has destroyed
American democracy promotion programs and sentenced U.S. citizens to
jail terms for carrying out those programs. The United States should also
insist on its right, guaranteed under international compacts, to freely
associate with and fund Egyptian NGOs, and to support international
organizations in their work in Egypt.
• Third , die U.S., must use the megaphone of the presidency and the State
Department to call out human rights abuses, so as to encourage our friends
in civil society and, most important, to let Egyptians know they are not
forgotten and abandoned in the fight for freedom, but have the support of
the free world. America must be clear about where it stands on freedom of
expression, freedom of association, and freedom of religion.
• Fourth, public actions need to be followed up with private actions. For
example, President al-Sisi must not be received in person by President
Obama when he comes to Washington for the U.S. -Africa Leaders’
Conference in August, and al-Sisi should know the reason why. He should
also be told that the United States is not in the mood for business as usual,
but wants to see real political progress in the service of regional stability.
None of this is easy. But it is necessary. The people of the Arab world’s most
populous country must not be left alone to fight a struggle for democracy on an
uneven playing field without the help of those who want it to succeed.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Very eloquent. Thank you very much. We ap-
preciate all the work that Freedom House does.
STATEMENT OF MR. SAM LAHOOD (FORMER EGYPT COUNTRY
DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE)
Mr. LaHood. Thank you, ma’am. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Rank-
ing Member Deutch, members of the committee, thank you and
thanks to all the Members of Congress who have supported the
nongovernmental organizations and our staff who have been
caught up in Egypt’s crackdown on civil society.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, I want to thank you personally for the
unwavering interest and support you have shown to myself and my
colleagues at this table. You have appropriately focused this hear-
ing on the struggles for civil society in Egypt and what a struggle
We are living proof of that struggle. On June 4th of last year,
I was convicted by an Egyptian court to 5 years in prison in Egypt
with hard labor for working to advance democracy as part of a U.S.
Government sponsored policy and program.
We here were found guilty in a trial that was very obviously po-
litically motivated and the result was preordained in a bogus trial.
It was part of a broader attempt to stifle and intimidate Egyptian
civil society emboldened by events that began on January 25th of
We, the convicted NGO staff, were entangled in an intergovern-
mental dispute between the United States and Egypt. We were car-
rying out U.S. policy and look at the price we paid. This has af-
fected our personal and professional lives profoundly. Since our
conviction last June, the full implications of how the verdicts affect
us are still emerging.
Under Egyptian law, I am a felon. It is unclear how that applies
in the United States so I need to read the fine print when applying
for a loan or sign a rental agreement, visa or job application.
In applying for life insurance, my broker believed he was obli-
gated to include my conviction in his application but he was con-
cerned about the ramifications of providing detailed information
about my verdict to the company for fear that it might enter into
my permanent record.
I am still waiting for the Virginia Board of Elections to tell me
whether I am eligible to vote. For a lawyer to be admitted to the
Bar, to be a stockbroker, real estate agent, teacher or sell insur-
ance you need to have a clean record, as you know.
Every time I fill out an application or a questionnaire I will be
on the lookout for the question, “Have you ever been convicted of
a crime?” And I will need to think very carefully about my answer.
As Charles mentioned, our ability to travel internationally is an-
other question mark that hangs over our heads. Clearly, I cannot
travel to Egypt but numerous other places around the world how
confident can I be that I will not run into legal trouble and be put
into proceedings for possible extradition to Egypt and how do I as-
sess that risk? But I know that my personal hardship pales in com-
parison to the hardship of others.
I never faced the full humiliation of standing in a cage in an
Egyptian courtroom nor did I spend even 1 day in an overcrowded
Egyptian jail cell. Some of my convicted Egyptian colleagues have
no option to return home without facing jail time.
They are now refugees. Others have lost personal relationships
and work opportunities. All of us have been impacted and had the
course of our careers and lives altered.
It seems crazy to think that for working to advance democracy
in Egypt I would be rewarded with a jail term. But look no further
than the three journalists from A1 Jazeera who are currently serv-
ing 7- and 10-year jail terms.
Though I don’t know Peter Greste, Mohamad Fahmy or Baher
Mohamed well, I know that they were equally innocent of the ludi-
crous charges that they were put on trial for as those of us here
A revolution began in 2001 which broke the barrier of fear
among civil society activists in Egypt but their activities are now
being increasingly stifled by a regime that is attempting to put the
genie back in the bottle. Change is not always linear but it is al-
ways hard and it is always a struggle, as you know. IRI continues
to partner with those Egyptians who want to build a more demo-
cratic and open society. We hope that the Egyptian Government
will soon make that possible.
The same court that made a mockery of justice unfortunately not
only has the power to punish Americans in their country but unless
action is taken in our country too we — do we really want to tell au-
thoritarian governments that they have the power to affect the
lives and prospects of innocent Americans?
The U.S. Congress can statutorily affirm that the convictions of
the 43 NGO staff are not recognized under U.S. law and were po-
litically motivated. This would remove the legal question mark over
our heads and the frustration of trying to determine under 50 sepa-
rate state jurisdictions whether the convictions affect our ability to
conduct routine everyday business.
U.S. Government should not downgrade support for Egyptian or
international civil society organizations like those here today. To do
so would abandon our partners in Egypt as well as the values for
which the United States stands.
There are many Egyptians who continue to be arrested and
thrown in jail on trumped up charges. I would urge the United
States continues to support those committed to advocating for free-
dom and democracy.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. LaHood follows:]
The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt
Testimony of Sam LaHood, Former Egypt Country Director
Internationa] Republican Institute
U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
July 24, 2014
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Deutch and Members of the Committee, thank
you and all the Members of Congress who have supported the nongovernmental
organizations (NGO) and our staff who have been caught up in Egypt's crackdown on civil
society. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, I want to thank you personally for the unwavering
interest and support you have shown to myself and my colleagues at this table. You have
appropriately focused this hearing on the struggles for civil society in Egypt and what a
struggle it is today - we here are living proof of some of that struggle.
On June 4, 2013, 1 was convicted by an Egyptian court to five years prison in Egypt with
hard labor - for working to advance democracy as part of a U.S. Government-supported
policy and program. Along with 42 of my colleagues from five international organizations, I
was found guilty in a trial that was very obviously politically motivated and the result was
pre-ordained in a bogus trial. Ultimately, it was part of a broader attempt to stifle and
intimidate an Egyptian civil society emboldened by events that began on January 25, 2011.
We, the convicted NGO staff, were entangled in an intergovernmental dispute between the
United States and Egypt.
We were carrying out U.S. policy and look at the price we paid. This has affected our
personal and professional lives.
I am hereto present an accountof my personal travails in Egypt as a result of actions taken
by the Egyptian government against my organization and others seeking to advance basic
freedoms. I would like to ask that Congress and more broadly the U.S. Government
consider actions that will improve my situation and that of my convicted colleagues
residing here in the United States. I ask that the convictions of the 43 NGO staff remain part
of the conversations between U.S. and Egyptian governments, with the goal of achieving
presidential pardons by Egyptian President A1 Sisi. In the wake of events since the removal
of former President Morsi, the U.S. Government should remain vigilant in its continued
support for NGOs committed to a democratic Egypt.
For those of you who don’t know the background, let me tell you the events that unfolded.
Background p * "vr; \ >
The International Re publican Institute (IR1) is a nonpro|^nonpj^i4saii '.organization, and
one of the four core institutes of the N ationa l E ndow ment for D e mo cracy. Our mission is to
encourage democracy in places where it is absen&fhelp democracy become more effective
where it is in danger, and share best practices where democracy is flourishing.
In 2005, 1R1 opened its office in Cairo, Egypt 1R1 applied for official registration in 2006
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. IRI was not asked to. close its offices and Egyptian
authorities were thoroughly briefed on IRTs work. Between the time of the original
submission and the raids on our offices in 2011, IRI received no official response or action
to advance or reject our application. In August 2010, l joined IRI to lead our program in
Egypt. I personally met with officials front the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on six occasions
and regularly shared information about my status in Egypt and IRI activities. At the
request of Egyptian authorities, IRI resubmitted registration paperwork in 2012. Nothing
that 1 or IRI did was secretive and we welcomed interaction from the Egyptian government.
As IRI has repeatedly shown the Egyptian government, our program provides technical
skills trainings, based on a wide range of international experiences, on the long-term
development of political parties and civil society. IRI's work with Egyptian civil society
supports nonpartisan voter education and civic engagement with the goal of enhancing
democratic participation and does not interfere with or influence the outcome of elections.
At training seminars before the revolution, Egyptians would commonly note that some of
the subject matter or lessons that we shared did not apply in Egypt as it was not an open or
free competitive political system, or that the political space was too narrow to implement
due to the authoritarian nature of the Mubarak government. The essence of democracy
and governance work is the belief that people want to be free to determine their future. IRI
believed that Egyptians would someday have an opportunity for the politics of that country
to be played in a new and open environment, and that there would be a need for people and
organizations to have the skills to operate within this new space. IRI was there to help
them prepare for the future when that opening occurred - a future that Egyptians would
decide and direct.
January 25,2011 Revolution
In early January 2011, 1 was made aware of a Facebook page for a protest being planned for
January 25. This social media effort was an Egyptian initiative. By January 23, there were
over 80,000 fans of the page - a number that was unheard of prior to that period. Egypt -
and Cairo in particular - during the January 25, 2011 revolution was a time and place that I
will always remember. Watching those momentous events of a revolution unfolding and
watching Egyptian friends demonstrate enormous courage was awe-inspiring. The
electricity and euphoria of that moment is what Cairo felt like for weeks after January 25.
The energy, hope and idea that anything was possible, everything was going to be different,
and that life in Egypt was going to improve seemed to be everywhere and inside everyone.
In the months after President Mubarak stepped down, there was ^n.enoTihpUS SUrgf in
positive interest by Egyptians in the programs that IRI provides to civil society and political
parties. Friends and alumni came knocking on our door. They catne looking for more
information and assistance on the types of training programs we provide. Activists were
eager to learn best practices on election campaigning, organization, advocacy, and voter
education. This type of work is no different from the efforts our organization has
undertaken in countries around the world and in transitions dating back to 1980s.
0 Jp \
During this time, IRI expanded its program in response to this local surge in demand. We
opened offices in Alexandria and Luxor to provide better regional support for our seminars.
The demand was overwhelming throughout 2011 as new actors moved into the political
space that was newly opened. In 2011, 1RJ trained more than 24,000 individuals under
programs funded by U.S. Agency for International Development and U S. Department of
It was in the summer of 2011 when the first vague sign of a problem appeared in the form
of news reports in the Egyptian media of a "secret” cabinet investigation into foreign
funding that was reportedly coming into Egypt. These reports named many domestic and
international organizations, as well as foreign governments. Elements of the Egyptian
media are known to be unreliable and sensational; other elements take direction from state
security. The Minister of International Cooperation and Planning at the time, Fayza Aboul
Naga, was the leading voice of the allegations and was the public face that drove the actions
that led to our trial and convictions. Near the end of the summer, more reports appeared
that the cabinet investigation was completed and the file was submitted to the Ministry of
Justice. The report, which would become known as the "Fact-Finding Report," cited a
number of organizations including those represented here today. This so-called "Fact
Finding Report" was based on innuendo and rumor... everything but facts. In it. Minister
Aboul Naga stated that "the American administration has been using the program of U.S.
aid to penetrate Egypt and jeopardize its security under the cover of the program of U.S. aid
in the midst of this negative press reporting, IRi continued to conduct our program
throughout Egypt as the country eagerly prepared for multi-stage parliamentary elections
scheduled to begin in November 2011 and conclude in Januaiy 2012. IRi, along with the
National Democratic Institute (NDI), applied to the Egyptian government to conduct official
international election observations. On November 19, 2011, the Egyptian government
authorized IRI to be official international election observers and later issued credentials to
IRI to observe all three phases of the parliamentary elections. Our accreditation was the
first formal written response IRI had ever received from the Egyptian government. At the
time, l wrongly interpreted this as a positive sign for IRI’s ability to work in Egypt and the
trajectory of our relationship with the Egyptian government.
Raids on NGO Offices
On the bright morning of December 29, our office in Cairo was busyp^eparihg to receive
and host our final election observation delegation for the January 3-4, 201 2 elections. I
received a frantic call from my colleague to say that the police were at our office. By the
time I reached the office door, officials from the state prosecutors’ office were walking in,
along with more than a dozen heavily armed police and military wearing helmets and
carrying AK-47s. For more than seven hours, the authorities questioned everyone present
and rifled through our office from top to bottom. They demanded passwords to computers,
confiscated boxes of files and documents (including bank statements, financial information,
and accounting documents), computers and servers, and all the cash in our office that was
to be used for the monthly staff payroll as well as to finance our pending election
observation mission. After a very tense and nervous day, they sealed our office with all of
its contents, including personal effects, locked inside like a crime scene. Highlights ot the
confiscated items include more than $150,000 in cash, numerous computers, files and
documents. The raid that occurred on the Cairo office also occurred at IRI offices in
Alexandria and Luxor, as well as on the offices of NDI, Freedom House, International Center
for Journalists and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. These raids were well-planned
and occurred concurrently across the country. Despite all this, 1RI and NDI still managed to
conduct international election observations for the final round of parliamentary elections.
In the weeks following the raids, there was a flurry of activity by Members of this
Committee and many other Members of the U.S. Congress advocating assistance for our
organizations. I have especially high praise for members of the executive branch and U.S.
Embassy who worked to find a solution. I know that assurances were given by the highest
levels of the Egyptian government that this issue would be resolved and that IR1 equipment
and resources seized in the raids would be returned, our offices would be unsealed and
allowed to reopen. Those assurances have not been kept. In fact, from that point on, we
descended even deeper into peril. The Egyptian bureaucracy - what is known by average
Egyptians as the "deep state" - proceeded at full speed as Egyptian state investigators
continued calling our staff in for interrogation. I, personally, spent an entire day at the
Ministry of Justice and was questioned for four hours about my work and legal status in
Egypt. In all, 1RI had 16 employees from Egypt, United States and Europe called in for
On January 21, 2012, 1 was scheduled to leave Egypt on a planned personal trip. It was also
hoped that a diminished staff and activity level would help encourage a more constructive
atmosphere and help get our organizations and personnel past the dispute with the
Egyptian government. Upon swiping my passport when passing through Egyptian passport
control, the customs agent paused for a full minute, then confirmed my name and
information, and asked me to wait. The agent returned with another customs official who
took me out of line and informed me that I could not leave. Needless to say, it is an
incredibly unsettling feeling when you are in a foreign country and attempting to depart on
an international trip only to be told you cannot leave. 1 asked the officer what the issue was
and she told me she did not know. I asked her why I could not leave and she did not know.
I asked if there was anyone who could give me more information and she said no. I asked
who 1 should talk to and she said she did not know. All she could tell me ^S that 1 was not
allowed to leave Egypt despite having a valid visa that was in good standing. It is a surreal ;
experience to be told you are not allowed to travel, something that: happens in
authoritarian countries around the world as a tool to.ifitimidate and.pbntrol people.
Neither I nor our local attorney had been informed that the investigative authorities had
placed travel restrictions on me and other NGO staff.
In the context of an on-going legal action and prohibition on departing the country, along
with an Egyptian government-sponsored media campaign against NGOs that played to the
worst xenophobic fears of Egyptians, concerns about the safety of the international NGO
staff became justified. No one knew what could happen next. As a consequence, on January
28, 2012, 1RI staff were invited by the U.S. Ambassador and other Ambassadors to stay at
their respective embassies. Further, the public attacks against 1R1 and other NGOs,
including the release of the names of IRI staff in print, broadcast and online media, had
consequences for IRI's Egyptian staff, who were ostracized and became the target of
harassment within their respective communities. In the ensuing weeks when I, along with
my colleagues, stayed in our respective embassies, there was pressure on the Egyptian
government from the Obama Administration and Members of Congress to find a resolution.
Following referral of the Egyptian investigating judges’ report to judicial authorities, an
initial, procedural hearing was held on February 26, 2012 that officially started our trial.
The hearing was marred by chaos and courtroom insecurity due to protests in and around
the Cairo criminal courthouse. Shortly after the hearing and an agreement to post bail for
non-Egyptian staff at a cost of nearly $331,208 per person, the head of the Appeals Court
authorized the lifting of travel restrictions. With assistance from the U.S. Embassy, myself
and the other remaining international staff were flown out of Egypt on March 2, 2012.
Even though I stood safely on U.S. soil, all 43 of us waited nearly one and a half years for a
resolution to the trial as 11 additional painstaking courtroom hearings proceeded -
hearings that our Egyptian staff attended where they were put into a courtroom cage and
covered by media for national television news stories.
Throughout the investigation and trial, Egyptian authorities used benign technicalities to
bring legal endorsement to outrageous allegations. In my case, it was that my organization
did not have official registration, never mind that we had properly applied and worked
with Egyptian authorities on our registration, and were given accreditation to be
international election observers in the 2011 parliamentary elections. These technical
charges were accompanied by a smear campaign in Egypt's yellow press intended to stir
suspicion and tarnish the reputations of the organizations and individuals charged. In her
official testimony to investigators about our organizations, Minister Aboul Naga used
similar arguments that we saw in the media when she stated that "the January 25
Revolution took America by surprise...thus, the USA employed all its capacities to contain
the developments and steer them towards serving US and Israeli interests. Evidence
indicates an unequivocal desire and persistence to thwart any attempt at Egypt's progress
as a modern democratic country with a strong economy since that will pose a threat to
Israel and American interests," and, "There were American articles and footage of American
shows proving that these organizations worked in coordination with the CIA." That a
minister in the Egyptian government - and the one who is tasked with coordinating
American economic aid - said this under oath in an official legal setting against us is as
astounding as it is outrageous.
I would like to additionally note a few key points that emanated from the 12 proceedings
over the course of nearly a year and a half that ended in the convictions of 43 innocent
persons. The first is that the Egyptian governrijent does not respect the rule of law. IRI’s
lawyers made a clear case that the Institute aped within the parameters of Egypt’s
standing NGO law, otherwise known as Law 84, the Law of Associations. Law 84 provides
that foreign organizations need to request permission to conduct activities that would
normally be conducted by Egyptian associations or civil institutions. It further provides, in
Article 6, that requests to obtain permission are legally effective if 60 days have passed
without any expressed objection to the request The law makes no reference to a "license."
IRI submitted its request to establish operations in 2006 with all necessary documents for
registration. The attorneys noted this legal point to the court and presented evidence that
registration paperwork had been submitted without any response. Due to the Egyptian
government's inaction, and consistent with Law 84, 1R1 had obtained permission to conduct
activities. In addition, the High Elections Commission (which supervised the 2011
parliamentary elections) authorized IR1 employees to serve in an official capacity as
election monitors in Egypt, affirming the position that legally IRI had been permitted to
work in Egypt.
In its June 4, 2013, verdict, the Cairo Criminal Court acknowledged that the law does have a
stipulation that, if 60 days pass without government permission, an organization had de
facto permission. But the court ignored its own recognition of this and concluded that IRI
staff had been working illegally nonetheless.
Furthermore, our lawyers offered clear evidence that this case was originally brought
about because of a dispute between the governments of Egypt and the United States related
to democracy assistance funding in the wake of January 2011 revolution. In short, a
political conflict had emerged over the use of American economic assistance to Egypt, with
Egypt insisting that the funding not be directed to organizations working on democracy.
There was overwhelming evidence presented by the IRI legal defense and the other
defense teams showing the political, rather than criminal, nature of the dispute. In April
2012, INTERPOL denied Egypt’s request to issue Red Notices (international wanted
persons alerts) for 15 individuals connected to the case. The INTERPOL statement
specifically noted Article 3 of its [INTERPOL’S] Constitution as the basis for rejecting the
Government of Egypt's request: “it is strictly forbidden for the organization to undertake
any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character."
Additionally, a prosecution witness - when asked in court why previous action had not
been taken against foreign organizations such as IRI - stated "for political considerations
and the impact on the economic and military assistance programs.” Numerous U.S.
Government officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House National
Security Council spokesman, made public statements attesting to the political nature of the
trial. In short, my life and the lives of 42 colleagues were turned upside down over a
political dispute, one in which Egypt objected to the U.S. values of freedom and democracy.
Impact of the Convictions
Since our convictions in a Cairo court last June, the full implications of the guilty verdicts
are still emerging. Under Egyptian law, I am a felon; it is unclear whether that applies in
the United States, so l need to read the fine print when 1 apply fora loan or sign a rental
agreement, visa or job application. In applying for life insurance, my broker believed he
was obligated to include my conviction in my application and that we could explain the
unique circumstances and find an equitable solution. My broker contacted 13 of the top
companies in the United States and only one indicated they wanted more information
about my case. My broker was encouraged that we got a positive response, but was
concerned about the ramification of providing detailed information about rny verdict to the
company for fear that it might enter into fhy permanent record. 1 am still waiting for the
Virginia State Board of Elections to tell me whether I am eligible to vote. In Virginia, the
law is vague and says that convicted felons can only vote once they have completed their
sentence. Fortunately, 1 am about to officially relocate my residence to Maryland where the
state law is more explicit to stipulate that felons who were convicted in a municipal, state
or federal court are ineligible to vote, so it is not an issue for me there. For a lawyer to be
admitted to the bar, to be a stockbroker, real estate agent, a teacher, or sell insurance, you
need to have a clean record. Every time I fill out an application or questionnaire, 1 will be
on the lookout for the question "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" and will need to
think carefully about my answer.
My ability to travel internationally is another question mark that hangs over my head.
Clearly, I cannot travel to Egypt, but there are at least another dozen countries nearby that
have close ties to Egypt. Canada and a number of European countries have said they do not
recognize the verdict and have condemned it, but others are less clear. If I were to travel to
places in Africa or Asia, how confident can 1 be that I will not run into legal trouble and be
put into proceedings for possible extradition to Egypt, and how do I assess that risk?
But I know that my personal hardship pales in comparison to the hardship of others.
Before I was put on trial in Egypt, I was fortunate to be offered temporary residence in the
U.S. Embassy with the other accused Americans. 1 slept on an air mattress for a couple
weeks in an auditorium on the Embassy grounds. I never faced the full humiliation of
standing in a cage as is the custom for defendants in an Egyptian courtroom, nor did I
spend even one day in an overcrowded Egyptian jail cell. Some of my convicted Egyptian
colleagues have no option to return home without facing jail time. They are now refugees.
They must choose prison or life in exile with the prospect of never seeing their home,
family and friends again. Others have lost personal relationships and work opportunities.
All of us have been impacted and had the course of our careers and lives altered.
It seems ludicrous to think that for working to advance democracy in Egypt, 1 would be
rewarded with a jail term, but look no further than the three journalists from A1 jazeera
who are currently serving seven and ten year jail terms for doing their jobs as journalists.
Although I do not know Peter Greste, Mohamad Fahmy or Baher Mohamed well, I know
that they were equally innocent of the ludicrous charges that they, were p.tif on : tri al for as
those of us here today. If not for the enormous amount of attention focused on our plight
that secured my ability to leave Egypt, 1 am sure 1 wo ulctr&C serving a five year jail sentence
in Egypt right now. I am eternally grateful to the efforts that Mdmbejrs of Congress, U.S.
Embassy staff and Obama Administration officialsjexerted to'enablerne to depart Egypt.
Egypt Today ,/■
I believe that the case against me and my colleagues here was part of a first step of the
Mubarak-era old guard and security services to reassert control in Egypt and shrink the
space available for political and civil society actors. Mubarak regime appointees who
targeted our groups for democracy assistance in Egypt manipulated the bureaucratic
machinery for their own ends. Many of these same persons, who constitute Egypt's deep
state, have returned fully empowered. Whether rounding up political prisoners or putting
journalists on trial, Egypt's deep state - led by individuals in the Ministry of Interior, state
security and other bureaucratic entities - is intent on controlling opposition in political
groups, civil society and media through intimidation and repression.
We can see parallels between the rhetoric used against the 43 of us convicted in the NGO
trial and that being utilized currently in Egypt I had been smeared in public for the most
ludicrous accusations of advancing Israeli interests, seeking to break up Egypt as a country,
and working against the aims of the Egyptian revolution. In an equally absurd parallel, the
Al Jazeera journalists recently convicted are accused of being terrorists and writing false
stories. Egypt’s draconian protest law has been used to justify the arrest and convictions of
key revolutionary personalities like Ahmed Maher, Mohamed Adel and Ahmed Douma.
Recently, the judiciary issued mass convictions and death penalties against hundreds of
people - a process that certainly does not appear to reflect a rule-of-law based judicial
system. It would be comical except this is real life, and the accusations and convictions
have real consequences for the individuals involved.
The outlook for democratic space is not encouraging as evidenced by the latest draft of the
NGO law. In June, the Ministry of Social Solidarity presented a draft law replacing the 2002
code regulating the activities of NGOs. The latest in a series of government attempts to
reform the country's current NGO law, the proposed Law on Associations and Civil
Institutions represents a return to the Mubarak-era policy of stifling activities of
organizations engaged in social and political activism, and is clearly an attempt to restrain
activities aimed at advancing democratic reforms in the country. If approved, the draft law
will deal a serious blow to the independence of Egypt's NGO community and public sphere,
and subordinate such organizations to the country's security establishment
In its current form, the draft law recycles much of the same language as the 2002 law. It
allows for the dissolution of NGOs on vague premises, including if their "real purposes" are
directed toward "any activity that calls for racism or hate or discrimination between
citizens on the basis of gender, origin, color, language, religion or creed, disability, or other
basis in violation of the Constitution and the law." Similarly, the draft appears to limit
associations' activities to only social welfare and development, and prohibits establishing
organizations that "threaten national unity, public order, public •• ^
discrimination between citizens based on sex, origin, color, religion, language or belief.”
With respect to foreign NGOs, the draft law provides for broad authority to reject or
revoke the registration of such organizations, including on the nebulous basis that "the
activities of the foreign CSOs do not meet the needs of Egyptian Community."
Though a revolution began in 2011 which broke the barrier of fear among civic activists,
their activities are now being increasingly stifled by a regime that is attempting to put the
genie back in the bottle. Since the January 25 revolution, Egyptian attitudes of what t hey
want and expect from their lives and their government have been reset I still think that if
nothing else has changed in Egypt, the revolution changed attitudes and expectations.
Since the revolution began, Egypt has been a wellspring of promise and disappointment to
Egyptians, as well as to friends of Egypt around the world. Change is not always linear, but
it is always hard and always a struggle.
1RI continues to partner with those Egyptians who want to build a more democratic and
open society. We hope that the Egyptian government will soon make that possible.
The same court that made a mockery of justice unfortunately not only has the power to
punish Americans in their country but - unless action is taken - in our country, too. Do we
really want to tell authoritarian governments that they have the power to affect the lives
and prospects of innocent Americans?
Going forward, there are a number of things that the U.S. Government should consider to
remedy the issues l have discussed and redirect efforts to move Egypt toward a more
The U.S. Congress can statutorily affirm that the convictions of the 43 NGO staff are not
recognized under U.S. law and were politically motivated. This would remove the legal
question mark over our heads and the frustration of trying to determine, under 50 separate
State jurisdictions, whether the convictions affect our ability to conduct routine everyday
The U.S. Government should continue to advocate for presidential pardons by the Egyptian
President for the 43 NGO staff. Pardons would substantially alleviate the issues we face as
individuals in our ability to travel, work and live full lives.
Within the U.S. Government, there should be a single point of contact in the interagency
process who is tasked to find a solution to our case, meeting regularly with the individuals
affected, keeping us informed about the advocacy taking place and sharing information.
The U.S. Government should assess its policy towards Egypt given the changing landscape.
The U.S. Government should remain focused on the long-term goals and values that lead us
to support people around the world who bravely stand up to advance freedom and human
rights. The U.S. Government should not downgrade support for Egyptian or international
civil society organizations like the ones here today - to do so would abandon our partners
in Egypt as well as the values for which the United States stands.
There are many Egyptians who continue to be arrested and thrown in jail on trumped up
charges who are guilty of nothing more than wanting a democratic future for their country.
I would urge that the United States continues to support those committed to advocating for
freedom and democracy.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Powerful testimony.
We thank you very much for sharing it with us.
STATEMENT OF MR. PATRICK BUTLER, VICE PRESIDENT,
PROGRAMS, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR JOURNALISTS
Mr. Butler. Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Deutch
and other distinguished members of the committee, thank you for
allowing me and my colleagues the opportunity to testify before you
As you know, more than a year ago I and 42 other NGO workers
were convicted in an Egyptian court for working on programs de-
signed to build democracy, monitor elections and train political par-
ties and journalists. We were given sentences ranging from 1 to 5
years in prison.
After an initial stir and expressions of outrage from the State
Department and Members of Congress, the case has largely faded
away. Most people who knew about the case probably think it was
resolved long ago.
That is why we are especially grateful to you for having us here
today. More than a year later, nothing has changed except the lives
of the convicts, mostly for the worse. Most Egyptians convicted in
the case are in exile, often separated from their families, their im-
migration status in limbo, unable to earn a living.
For Americans and other non-Egyptians, the convictions have
prevented international travel or thrown up obstacles in everything
from applying for jobs or loans or getting a security clearance. The
case was an early indication of changes to come in Egypt.
We were the canaries in the coal mine. In the past year, Egypt
has seen a brutal crackdown on opposition groups, civil society
workers and journalists including the conviction last month of
three A1 Jazeera journalists who dared to interview members of
Everything the Egyptian leadership is now doing to intimidate
the country into acquiescence could have been foretold by the ver-
dicts last year against us. I was one of five people working for the
International Center for Journalists who were convicted in the
The others were Americans Michelle Betz and Natasha Tynes
and our Egyptian colleagues, Yehia Ghanem and Islam Shafiq.
Michelle, Natasha and I were not in Egypt when the charges were
filed but we were immediately labeled fugitives from justice.
Yehia, who is with me today, and Islam were in Egypt and they
attended every hearing in the stifling hot cage, sometimes sharing
the cramped space with murderers and rapists. Like other NGOs,
we brought the Egyptians out of Egypt before the verdict was an-
nounced and they have not returned home since.
For me the conviction has been an inconvenience. I probably will
never go back to Egypt and I may not be able to travel elsewhere
in the region either for fear of being extradited.
I know I will still have a job even if I can’t travel to the Middle
East but Michelle and Natasha are freelance media development
contractors and when they can’t travel to the region they lose work.
The convictions have seriously affected their livelihoods.
For our Egyptian colleagues and friends, though, the convictions
are nothing short of catastrophic. Yehia Ghanem, an esteemed
Egyptian foreign correspondent and editor with nearly 30 years of
experience, is in perhaps the worst situation of any of the convicts.
Because of his seniority, his 2-year sentence was not suspended
as it was for many other Egyptians. That means he will go to jail
if he returns to Egypt. Yehia has not seen his wife and three chil-
dren or his ailing mother in more than a year.
His distinguished career in Egypt is over, his pension lost. ICFJ
helped him get a fellowship as a journalist in residence at the City
University of New York for the last academic year but the fellow-
ship was not enough to permit him to support his family in New
While he has been here, his family members have continued to
suffer harassment in Cairo including three raids on their home by
security officials seeking Yehia even though they knew he is in the
The most recent raid happened Sunday night. The raids
against — these raids and one against the family members of Nancy
Okail, another Egyptian defendant, proved that while the U.S.
Government seems to have forgotten the case the Egyptian Govern-
ment certainly has not.
Yehia is now looking for a job and hoping to bring his family to
the United States. His greatest hope is to receive a green card so
that he has the security to work either in the United States or in
a Middle Eastern country that will not extradite him to Egypt.
So far, we have not been able to get him a green card. Islam
Shafiq has brought his wife to the United States and they now
have a young son. They are applying for asylum with Islam’s fam-
ily continuing to receive threats against him on a regular basis.
Islam’s father died while he was exile. He was not able to return
home for the funeral. Every one of the convicted NGO workers —
Americans, Egyptians and citizens of other countries — has a story
like this to tell. The case has ruined many people’s lives and for
In our case for trying to help Egyptian journalists do a better job
of reporting on issues that matter to their audiences. The verdict,
as we all know, was a sham based entirely on political calculations
and not at all on the evidence presented in the case.
But the greatest tragedy of this case is not its effect on individ-
uals like Yehai Ghanem or any of the four of us before you today.
The greatest tragedy is what this case has meant for the people of
The country’s authoritarian government learned the con-
sequences of its prosecution of Americans and Egyptians working
together to improve their society. Nothing. There were no con-
Now, with political opponents, human rights workers and jour-
nalists regularly jailed and most of Egyptian society scared into si-
lence, we are seeing how Egypt is putting into practice what it
learned from our case.
In closing, I urge you to do all you can for our Egyptian col-
leagues especially. They are suffering the most from this case.
When the charges were filed, U.S. Government officials and Mem-
bers of Congress visited them and promised to do all they could for
Many feel that those promises have been forgotten. Help us get
them green cards so that they can have a stable life and support
their families in the U.S. They paid a price for working on U.S.
Government-funded programs and they deserve our thanks.
Again, my sincere thanks to this committee for having us here
today and keeping this case alive.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Butler follows:]
Vice President-Programs, International Center for Journalists
U S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
Date of Hearing: July 24, 2014
Title of Hearing: The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and distinguished members of the Committee: Thank you for allowing
me and my colleagues the opportunity to testify before you today. As you know, more than a
year ago, I and 42 other NGO workers were convicted in an Egyptian court for working on
programs designed to build democracy, monitor elections and train political parties and
journalists. We were given sentences ranging from one to five years in prison. After an initial stir
and expressions of outrage from the State Department and members of Congress, the case has
largely faded away. Most people who knew about the case probably think it was resolved long
But more than a year later, nothing has changed except the lives of the convicts - mostly for the
worse. Most Egyptians convicted in the case are in exile, often separated from their families,
their immigration status in limbo, unable to earn a living For Americans and other non-
Egyptians, the convictions have prevented international travel or thrown up obstacles in
everything from applying for jobs or loans to getting a security clearance
The case was an early indication of changes to come in Egypt - we were the canaries in the coal
mine. Those changes culminated veith the landslide election to president of former military leader
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in June just before the one-year anniversary of the convictions. In that year,
Egypt has seen a brutal crackdown on opposition groups, civil society workers and journalists,
including the conviction last month of three Al Jazeera journalists who dared to interview
members of the banned opposition. Everything the Egyptian leadership is now doing to
intimidate the country into acquiescence could have been foretold by the verdicts last year
against the NGO workers.
I was one of five people working for the International Center for Journalists who were convicted
in the case. The others were Americans Michelle Betz and Natasha Tynes and our Egyptian
colleagues Yehia Ghanem and Islam Shafiq. Michelle, Natasha and T were not in Egypt when the
charges were filed, but we were immediately labeled fugitives from justice. Yehia and Islam
were in Egypt and attended every hearing in the stifling hot “cage,” sometimes sharing the
cramped space with murderers and rapists. Like the other NGOs, we brought the Egyptians out
of Egypt before the verdict was announced, and they have not returned home since.
For me, the conviction has been an inconvenience. I probably will never be able to go back to
Egypt, and I may not be able to travel elsewhere in the region either, for fear of being extradited
to Egypt. I know T will still have a job even if I can’t travel to the Middle East, but Michelle and
Natasha are free-lance media development contractors, and when they can’t travel to the region,
they lose work. The convictions have seriously affected their livelihoods.
For our Egyptian colleagues and friends, though, the convictions are nothing short of
catastrophic. Yehia Ghanem, an esteemed Egyptian foreign correspondent and editor with nearly
30 years of experience, is in perhaps the worst situation of any of the convicts. Because of his
seniority, his two-year sentence was not suspended, as it was for many of the other Egyptians.
That means that he will go to jail if he returns to Egypt.
Yehia has not seen his wife and three children or his ailing mother in more than a year. His
distinguished career in Egypt is over, his pension lost. ICFJ helped him get a fellowship as a
Journalist in Residence at the City University of New York for the 2013-14 academic year, but
the fellowship was not enough to permit him to support his family in New York, While he has
been here, his family members have continued to suffer harassment in Cairo, including three
raids on their home by security officials seeking Yehia, even though they knew he was in the
U S. The most recent raid happened last Sunday night. Those raids and one against family
members of Nancy Okail, another Egyptian defendant, prove that while the U.S. government
seems to have forgotten the case, the Egyptian government certainly has not,
Yehia is now looking for ajob and hoping to bring his family to the United States. His greatest
hope is to receive a green card so that he has the security to work either in the United States or in
a Middle Eastern country that will not extradite him to Egypt. So far, we have not been able to
get him a green card.
Tslam Shafiq has brought his wife to the United States, and they now have a young son. They are
applying for asylum, with Islam’s family continuing to receive threats against him on a regular
basis. Islam’s father died while he was in exile, and he was not able to return for the funeral.
Every one of the convicted NGO workers - Americans, Egyptians and citizens of other countries
- has a story like this to tell. This case has ruined many people's lives, and for what? In our case,
for trying to help Egyptian journalists do a better job of reporting on issues that matter to their
audiences. The verdict, as we all know, was a sham, based entirely on political calculations and
not at all on the evidence presented in the case.
But the greatest tragedy of this case is not its effect on individuals like Yehia Ghanem or any of
the four of us before you today. The greatest tragedy is what this case has meant to the people of
Egypt. The country’s authoritarian government learned the consequences of its prosecution of
Americans and Egyptians working together to improve their society: Nothing. There were no
Now, with political opponents, human rights workers and journalists regularly jailed and most of
Egyptian society scared into silence, we are seeing how Egypt is putting into practice what it
learned from our case.
Again, thank you to this committee for keeping our case alive.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Butler, and thank
you for always pointing out the other folks who are suffering so
much. Thank you. That says a lot about each and every one of you.
Ms. Jaafar, we look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF MS. LILA JAAFAR, SENIOR PROGRAM
MANAGER, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE
Ms. Jaafar. Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Deutch,
thank you for this opportunity to testify today about the criminal
convictions handed down to me and 14 other employees of the Na-
tional Democratic Institute who were put on trial in Egypt.
I also wanted to thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and many of
your colleagues for the continued statements of support that you
have issued for those of us who must now carry the burden of these
unjust convictions and I also wish to thank the many Egyptian
civic organizations and political leaders who have voiced their
statements of support, especially those for whom public statements
resulted in charges of their own.
On June 4th, 2013, I woke to find that I had been found guilty
in absentia by an Egyptian court. The inflammatory rhetoric in
that verdict contradicts the reality of our programs which included
election observation approved by the Government of Egypt as well
as nonpartisan voter education, civil society development, women’s
candidate training and long-term political party strengthening for
more than 50 registered political parties.
There can be little doubt that the goal of this verdict was to re-
duce or eliminate international support for independent civil soci-
ety in Egypt.
This unjust verdict has been incredibly disruptive. Some col-
leagues have lost jobs because the country in which they were as-
signed to work denied them entry or their potential employer
feared that the verdict would impact their ability to do the job.
Others have been detained by police in foreign countries while
traveling due to outdated red notices issued by Egypt through
Interpol. My initial feelings of shock and dismay quickly gave rise
to concerns about my career and family. Although I grew up in
California, the daughter of Middle Eastern and European immi-
grants, I went to a university in Lebanon and worked in the Middle
East for the past 10 years, 7 of them in Egypt. I built a life there.
When charges were filed against us and we were told to leave the
country there was no time to bid goodbye to that life, the Egyptians
I worked with and the many participants I had come to count as
friends. Now knowing I may never return still creates a deep ache
in my heart.
This verdict separates me from my family as well. As you see,
my parents retired in the Middle East where several family mem-
bers remain. Others convicted in the same NGO trial are separated
from children, parents and immediate family, and we are only 43
International human rights groups estimate that somewhere be-
tween 16,000 and 41,000 individuals have been imprisoned in
Egypt since June 2013 when our verdicts were handed down. Thou-
sands more have lost their lives. Countless families are affected.
When our offices were raided, I remember NDI’s president, Ken
Pollack, saying it was possible we were like canaries in a coal
mine — a warning of even worse things to come.
Now the Government of Egypt is reportedly considering a new
draft NGO law that is even more restrictive than the one under
which we were convicted. While not yet final, it contains language
that requires Egyptian civil society groups to receive prior approval
from the government before conducting domestic fund-raising ef-
forts or accepting funding from international donors.
The draft law also prohibits any public opinion research and co-
operation with a foreign organization without prior notification of
the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Those who are deemed to have
violated this provision risk 1 year imprisonment and a fine of
100.000 Egyptian pounds.
International NGOs like ours would still be subject to the prior
approval of multiple government ministries and constant moni-
toring. That registration could be terminated at any time for any
activity that the government deemed to threaten national unity.
Our verdict, the raids on the NGOs, the trials of journalists, the
protest law and the proposed NGO law contradict the promises of
freedom of expression and association and a free press, which are
guaranteed under the 2014 Egyptian constitution.
There is still a great hunger for democracy in Egypt, especially
among youth who now recognize it will take more than street dem-
onstrations to create a more pluralistic and democratic system.
Although we have not had a presence in Egypt for more than 2
years, we continue to review emails almost daily with request for
assistance. More than 48,000 copies of NDI’s publications have
been downloaded in Egypt since we left the country and more than
120.000 unique visitors have used NDI’s Arabic Web site.
Democratic activists in Egypt do exist and they are working for
genuine political reform. They deserve international support. With
all its human faults and failings, the democratic process is an ideal
worth upholding and very much in U.S. strategic interests.
The fact that this committee is having this hearing and that I
was invited to share my story speaks volumes about how our sys-
tem values individual citizens. It is my hope that one day every
Egyptian knows what this feels like and that I will be able to re-
turn to Egypt and share in their joy.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jaafar follows:]
STATEMENT BY LILA JAAFAR
SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE
BEFORE THE HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS SUBCOMMITTEE ON
THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
"THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVIL SOCIETY IN EGYPT"
JULY 24, 2014
Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for
this opportunity to testify today about the criminal convictions handed
down to me and other employees of the National Democratic Institute
who - along with counterparts from the International Republican
Institute, Freedom House, the International Center for Journalists and the
Konrad Adenauer Foundation - were put on trial in Egypt for working for
NGOs and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to five years.
I also want to thank you, Madam Chairwoman, Mr. Connolly, and many of
your colleagues for the continued statements of support that you have
issued for those of us who must now carry the burden of these unjust
convictions. And I also wish to thank the many Egyptian civic
organizations and political leaders who have voiced their support -
especially those for whom public statements resulted in charges of their
On June 4, 2013, I awoke to find that I had been found guilty in absentia
by an Egyptian court for exerting - and I quote - “a new form of control
and domination.” The judges claimed that, “One cannot imagine... that
the USA or other countries supporting the Zionist entity has any interest
or a genuine desire for establishing a real democracy in Egypt.”
This inflammatory rhetoric contradicts the budgetary realities of Egypt,
which currently receives billions of dollars in foreign assistance each
year. It also contradicts the reality of our programs, which included
election observation approved by the Government of Egypt as well as
nonpartisan voter education, civil society development, women’s
candidate training and long-term political party strengthening for more
than 50 registered political parties. Thousands of Egyptians from every
region of the country participated in our programs. We have been
completely open and transparent, having provided written and verbal
reports of our activities to the Egyptian authorities, as well as taking
every measure to fulfill all of the registration requirements with the
Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon opening our Cairo office in 2005.
There can be little doubt that this prosecution and subsequent verdict
had the specific goal of dramatically reducing, and perhaps even
effectively eliminating, international support for independent civil
society in Egypt.
My "crime" was operating an unlicensed branch of an international
organization and receiving funds from the United States Government
without the approval of the Egyptian government. The Congressionally
appropriated funds were provided by the United States Agency for
International Development (USAID) and the State Department’s Bureau of
Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL).
This unjust verdict has been incredibly disruptive for individuals
convicted. Some colleagues have lost jobs because the country in which
they were assigned to work denied them entry or their prospective
employer feared that the verdict would impact their ability to work.
Some have been detained by police in foreign countries while traveling
due to outdated red notices issued by Egypt through INTERPOL.
The initial feelings of shock and dismay quickly gave rise to concerns
about my career and family. Although I grew up in Los Angeles,
California, the daughter of Middle Eastern and European immigrants, I
went to university in Lebanon and worked in the Middle East for the past
10 years -seven of them in Egypt. I built a life there. When charges
were filed against us and we were told to leave Egypt, there was no time
to bid goodbye to that life, the Egyptians I worked with and the many
participants I had come to count as friends. Now, knowing I may never
return still creates a deep ache in my heart.
This verdict separates me from my family as well - you see my parents
retired in the Middle East where several family members remain. Others
convicted in the same NGO trial are separated from children, parents and
immediate family. And we are only 43 stories - international human
rights groups estimate that somewhere between 16,000 and 41,000
individuals have been imprisoned in Egypt since June of 2013 when our
verdicts were handed down. Thousands more have lost their lives.
Countless families are affected.
When our offices were raided in December of 2011, I remember NDI’s
President Kenneth Wollack saying that it was possible we were, in effect,
canaries in a coal mine - a warning of even worse things to come. The
trials against secular civic activists, detentions of former members of
parliament and political party leaders, and the recent conviction of the
journalists in Egypt serve as near constant reminders of the most stressful
aspects of our prosecution. These include the trauma of the armed raids,
the abrupt work stoppage, an intense government-led media campaign
accusing us of being spies and suggesting that our Egyptian colleagues
should be put to death, the hours of interrogation by Egyptian judges,
and an 18-month trial resulting in felony convictions without a shred of
evidence. Now we have a jail sentence and travel restrictions that could
follow us for the rest of our lives.
The Government of Egypt is reportedly considering a new draft NGO law
that is far more restrictive than the one under which we were charged
and convicted. While not yet final, it contains language that requires
Egyptian civil society groups to receive prior approval from the
government before conducting domestic fundraising efforts or accepting
funding from international donors. The draft law also prohibits any
public opinion research and cooperation with a foreign association,
organization or agency without prior notification of the Ministry of Social
Solidarity. Those who are deemed to have violated this provision risk one
year imprisonment and a fine of 100,OOOEGP, or approximately $14,000.
International NGOs like ours would still be subject to the prior approval
of multiple government ministries, including the state security apparatus,
before registration is granted, and even afterward be subject to constant
monitoring and vulnerable to charges of violating the law due to the
overly broad language included in the draft. For example, registration
could be terminated for any activity that the government deemed to
“threaten national unity.”
Democratic transitions follow no set pattern, and no transition looks the
same as another. However, every society that transitions to a more
pluralistic, participatory political system has active public discourse and
debate and vibrant political activity that directly engages a diverse cross-
section of citizens in shaping policies of the country.
Our verdict, the raids on NGOs, the trials of journalists, the protest law
and the proposed NGO law create an opposite effect and directly
contradict the promises of freedom of expression and association, and a
free press guaranteed in the 2014 Egyptian Constitution as well as
numerous conventions and treaties to which Egypt is a signatory.
I am proud to work for an organization that supports democratic
development and democratic institutions in nearly 70 countries around
the world. I have seen first-hand the difference it makes in a society -
especially in the area of long-term economic and social advancement that
improves the quality of life for the majority of citizens and contributes to
a more peaceful existence.
The nature of our work often requires us to travel to far-flung corners of
the Earth to work with activists and governments that aspire to the same
rights-based, inclusive political system that we enjoy, as do millions of
others in every region of the world. This work also requires one to be an
optimist and I believe that there is still room for optimism where Egypt is
concerned. There is still a great hunger for democracy in Egypt -
especially among the youth who now recognize that it will take more
than street demonstrations to create a more pluralistic and democratic
system. Although we have not had a presence in Egypt for more than two
years, we continue to receive e-mails almost daily requesting assistance.
More than 48,000 copies of NDI's Arabic language publications have been
downloaded in Egypt since we left the country, and more than 120,000
unique visitors have used the Institute's Arabic website - 85 percent of
them from Egypt. Democratic activists in Egypt do exist and they have
every intention of working for genuine political reform. They deserve
I believe strongly in this work and in the democratic process. And
despite the added risk that this verdict brings -- it is still work worth
doing. With all its human faults and failings, the democratic process is an
ideal worth upholding and very much in U.S. strategic interests.
The fact that this committee is having this hearing and that I was invited
to share my story speaks volumes about how our system values individual
citizens. It is my hope that one day, every Egyptian knows what this feels
like and that I will be able to return to Egypt and share in their joy.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so very much. Thank you to each
and every one of you for the work that you do, the work that your
institutions do and it is very uplifting to hear these shocking sto-
And one of the main reasons that we are holding this hearing is
to hear about your experiences and what it has been like to those —
for those affected by last year’s trial. People just assume that ev-
erything is fine and that isn’t the case. But we move on.
The story is the headline of the day and until the next paper
comes and it is just yesterday’s news. We have heard about the
human toll that you so dramatically presented to us that it has
taken both on your work and on your personal lives and it is very
heartening to hear how concerned you are about your Egyptian col-
And we will continue to push for your pardon, and some of you
had said in their testimony about this canary in the coal mine. You
and the other 42 NGO workers at your trial was a sign of worse
things to come and earlier this month we saw al-Sisi say that he
regretted the conviction of the A1 Jazeera journalists but he said
that only after a significant expression of international outrage.
Yet in your testimony, Mr. Dunne, you worry that in Egypt today
there is a transition back to an autocratic form of government that
would make Mubarak seem liberal in comparison. Do you believe
that under al-Sisi there is a chance that civil society conditions will
improve or do you think that it could be even worse than under
Mr. Dunne. Madam Chairwoman, I do believe that it could be
significantly worse under President al-Sisi. What we have heard
from Egyptian interlocutors, diplomats and so on for months now
is just wait until General al-Sisi is elected as President and then
you will see a liberalization in the human rights situation.
Not only has that not happened, it has gone backwards. Some of
us have talked about the numbers of people who have been impris-
oned since the coup last year and some of us has talked about the
issues with the NGO law including an exception for shutting people
down and prohibiting activities for public morals charges, which
can be interpreted any way you like, and I think it will be.
I mean, clearly, it is moving in a more restrictive direction for
the kind of work that we do. The other thing that this new law
would do in fact is limit organizations to doing social welfare and
development work. In other words, if you are baking bread or, you
know, helping village enterprises, which is all good, you are fine.
But if you are doing the kind of work that all of our organizations
are doing you are not fine.
So I don’t see a glimmer of home in the political direction, cer-
tainly in the direction of NGOs right now.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Now, Egypt, obviously, is a stra-
tegic country for U.S. assets militarily and politically but we have
seen so much turmoil and so many changes in Egypt that I think
we need to reexamine our relationship with Egypt. I know that you
had talked about conditioning the aid, move it from the military to
What are your thoughts for the other three folks? Do you think
that the United States should condition our military aid to Egypt
until we get pardons for you or that we see greater respect for
human rights or civil society and the rule of law?
And also, is there anything that you believe that our Government
can or should do to improve this draconian new NGO law that
many fear will be the death knell for independent organizations in
What should we be doing to help foster civil society in Egypt and
continue the work of political reform?
And lastly, the administration — you know, when we were lining
up witnesses we wanted to find out who in the administration is
in charge of your cases. We couldn’t find a name. We do not know
that there is a person tasked with your case and I worry about
Please describe your experiences with the administration. What
more do they need to do to step up?
Mr. LaHood. If I could just start. The first thing I would say is
from my standpoint when I was in Egypt I am very appreciative
of everything the Obama administration did to secure Lila and I’s
release when we were actually in Egypt when we were in the Em-
And so from my standpoint if that pressure hadn’t been put on
them by the administration I think I would be in jail right now,
and it is an odd thing to say but I believe it is true and I look at
the A1 Jazeera journalists and I know it is true. So I am very com-
plimentary of everything the Obama administration did, certainly,
you know, at that time.
But, you know, from my standpoint I would look at, you know,
I think the U.S. Government should assess its policy toward Egypt,
given all the changing landscape, as you noted, and I think the
government should remain focused on the long-term — on our long-
term goals and values that led us to support people around the
world who bravely stand up to advance freedom and human rights.
I don’t think the United States Government should downgrade
support for Egyptian or international civil society organizations be-
cause of what has happened in Egypt. I think to do so abandons
our values. And I very much appreciate your point about who is in
charge of our case within the U.S. Government.
I go to events once in a while in Egypt just for fun to harass
Egyptian officials who come here and I run into U.S. officials and
I ask them all the time, you know, who is in charge of our case
and the answer is well, there is a lot of people working on it, and
I would say but if there was one person who would it be or what
office would it be, and the answer is a lot of people are working
We don’t need somebody working on it. We need somebody work-
ing to find a solution for it, not just following it, not just tracking
it. And so that is one thing that I would advocate that I would love
to know who is in charge of it.
And the other point I would just make that I have complained
about to anybody who will listen is the U.S. Government has been
very good at keeping the institutes informed of what is going on
as it relates to our case.
But these are individual charges that we carry forward. I leave
IRI, I am still a convicted felon. It doesn’t matter that I work or
don’t work for IRI. And so that has been one of my gripes that the
U.S. Government has done, in my opinion, a poor job of keeping us
as individuals informed, and as Patrick sort of alluded to, you
know, for some of their employees who were contractors who
weren’t strongly affiliated with their institute they have tried to
move on with their lives and they have this cloud that still hangs
over their head as individuals.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much.
Mr. Butler, Ms. Jaafar.
Mr. Butler. Yes. You know, in response to your first question,
ICFJ is a nonpartisan organization that is strictly devoted to im-
proving journalism around the world and we try to remain inde-
pendent of advising the U.S. Government on what it should do.
So I can’t really respond in terms of what I think the U.S. Gov-
ernment should do in terms of cutting off aid or not cutting off aid.
But I will say as I said in my remarks that I don’t think the re-
sponse should be nothing and it feels like that has been the re-
In terms of the point that you made again I will back up what
Sam said. You are absolutely right in terms of having a point per-
son at the State Department. We don’t have that.
I think sometimes that if we don’t as the four organizations com-
municate among ourselves I find out much more from these guys
sometimes than I do from, you know, people at State because — in
part because we don’t have that one person to go to.
I will say that they have been very helpful in a number of things
such as working with, you know, to get Interpol to give us the let-
ters that we take whenever we travel. That was definitely the
State Department pushing for us to get those letters that say that
these are not valid charges.
It took a while but we got them. We also have a letter from the
State Department that says that it does not consider these charges
to be valid and in response to some of the things that Sam talked
about in terms of applying for jobs, loans, security clearances and
things like that, this letter should be, as we understand it, reason
to be able to say no, we were not convicted of a felony.
But, as Sam said, we never really know whether somebody is
going to then Google us and find out that we were. So I think you
are absolutely right, we would like to have more, you know, one fo-
cused person at State that we can go to when we have requests like
how are we going to help our Egyptian colleagues with their immi-
gration status, you know, things like that — to have one person to
I think right now, because we have different parts of State fund-
ing our different projects, we go to the people who funded us and
that may be very different people. So it would be very, very helpful
to have that.
Ms. Jaafar. Madam Chairwoman, I would like to, you know, just
agree with Sam and what he said. I don’t think I would be here
today before you if the administration did not help us and support
us during the most difficult times of this journey.
I also wanted to say that NDI doesn’t take a position on military
assistance. However, I think that it is really important that assist-
ance for democracy in governance continue.
But at the same time it is important that the civil society organi-
zations have this space to operate and that is what is so concerning
about the draft NGO law. If it is passed in its form — in its current
form it will be among the most restrictive in the world.
So I would just ask that we keep sight — keep our eye on that
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Well, thank you very much. You are an in-
spiration to us all and I apologize the lack of attendance. It is be-
cause we have so many — so many subcommittees and but you — we
will make sure that we broadcast your words far and wide. Thank
you so much. It is a pleasure to be with you.
Mr. Deutch is recognized.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thanks to all of
you for being here and sharing your very personal and very power-
ful stories. I am — look, the point that a number of you raised, I am
supremely confident that after this hearing it will be easier for you
to identify someone at the State Department to talk to about the
I trust that will be a positive and hopefully simple result to come
from this hearing. I would actually like to broaden the discussion
a bit beyond your personal situations to the work that you advocate
for and talk about not just what the government — administration
and Congress — have done with respect to your convictions but
where the issues that you care about — where you think these
issues that you care about place on our agenda, on both ends of
Human rights, free expression, women’s rights, building of civil
society — do you feel the support for — not just for you but for the
work that you do and if not what more can be done?
What more would you like to hear and how do we ensure — I
guess where I am — the point of my question is how do we ensure
that these issues remain of vital importance to all of us as we tack-
le the myriad of challenges around the world?
Mr. Dunne. Thank you very much. I will be happy to take the
first crack at this. I think there has been the start of a pull back
from supporting many of these issues not only by the United States
but by European Governments as well who see at least in the Mid-
dle East that this is getting really hard to do.
I think all of the issues that you described, Congressman, are vi-
tally important as a complex of things that we need to support as
a country along with the Europeans as not just a nice thing to do
if we have the time and the money to do it but as a vital compo-
nent of our security interests in Egypt and other countries, espe-
cially in the Middle East but also elsewhere.
But you are also seeing a lot of authoritarian push back. We
have seen that in Russia with the AID mission having to leave.
We are seeing, you know, a Gulf Arab-led push back against de-
mocracy and human rights in Egypt and I don’t see kind of an inte-
grate policy that supports both security interests which are vital
including the military relationship with Egypt but that also include
all of these other issues which lead to better governance and social
stability over the long term.
I think that more funding needs to be devoted to this but most
importantly a comprehensive strategy has to be devised by our
Government in concert with the Europeans and other like-minded
governments to advance this.
Mr. Deutch. I appreciate that. Mr. LaHood, why do — why should
human rights matter in our approach to the world?
Mr. LaHood. Well, you ask a great question. I am going to just
try and take a small bite at it and just — from my standpoint, we
have a strong focus on security and stability and I think — I think
that is valid.
I think that makes great sense. But I think you look at the Mid-
dle East today, you look at what has happened in Egypt and I
think you see that that stability was a veneer, and it was great
while it lasted until it completely falls apart. Doesn’t seem to me
that it is sustainable.
I just look at Egypt — you know, I was in Egypt on January 25th
during the revolution and I just always look back and think what-
ever the plan was on January 24th of 2011 with U.S. and Egypt
it wasn’t a great plan.
You look at Egypt the way it was, what the great percentage of
people who were illiterate, the great percentage of people who lived
on less than $2 a day — whatever the old plan was that wasn’t a
very good one.
And I think the veneer of stability has blown up in our faces and
I just don’t see the path that Egypt’s on now as one that is going
to lead to long-term stability and that is the one point I would
Mr. Deutch. Thanks. Mr. Butler.
Mr. Butler. Yes. Well, obviously, the area that most concerns us
at the International Center for Journalists is freedom of expres-
sion, the rights of journalists to report freely about what is going
on and that has gotten a lot of attention in Egypt lately with the
convictions of the A1 Jazeera journalists.
But I wanted to point out that while that case has gotten a lot
of attention not as much attention is paid to all the other journal-
ists who are in jail in Egypt. There are, according to the Committee
to Protect Journalists, 14 journalists in prison in Egypt.
It is one of the highest rates in the world and those are not nec-
essarily high profile international journalists working for major
international networks. Most of them are local journalists who are,
you know, paying the price for trying to report independently.
We often say that there — and I guess getting to your question,
you know, one point would be why should we pay attention to this
anymore. You know, have we — have we gotten to a point where it
is not going to matter anyway, given what has happened in Egypt.
And I think we often say that there is no difference now between,
you know, what we are seeing now under Sisi and what we saw
under Mubarak and that is true to an extent.
But there is one important difference, which is that the whole
media landscape has changed and, you know, back in Mubarak’s
day there was only the official media and now there — we have, you
know, cable networks like A1 Jazeera but we also have social net-
works and people are — you know, the genie is out of the bottle and
so people have gotten used to being able to express themselves to
do that kind of thing and you can’t completely shut that off the
way Mubarak could shut off all independent or, really, any kind of
So what we do is try to focus often in very repressive societies
on other ways of getting information to the public and that can still
happen in Egypt. And, you know, obviously, we can’t work in Egypt
but until this case is resolved but very, you know, strongly echoing
what Charles and Sam have said about the need to continue this
kind of work, especially in our area of freedom of expression and
Mr. Deutch. Thanks. Madam Chairman, do we have time for
Ms. Jaafar to answer?
Ms. Jaafar. Mr. Deutch, I think it is extremely important to con-
tinue to work on human rights and democracy in governance be-
cause we are looking at long-term stability. I don’t think there can
be any long-term stability without the space for people to express
themselves, for them to participate in the political process.
I think even for economic development as well this is directly
linked. How can there be foreign direct investment and progress in
the economy of Egypt when there is a crackdown on civil society
and human rights violations?
So I think it is something that absolutely in our strategic interest
to continue to keep an eye on.
Mr. Deutch. I agree with you completely and I applaud the four
of you for your dedication in this issue and the immense difficulty
that you find yourselves in still as a result of it, and we are really
grateful for your appearance here today. Thank you, Madam Chair-
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Deutch.
Mr. Yoho. Thank you, Madam Chair. Appreciate you all being
here. Correct me if I am wrong but I think I have heard you all
say that you feel the Egyptian Government is moving away from
a democracy type to a authoritarian type. Is that pretty much the
consensus of all four of you? Ms. Jaafar.
Mr. Dunne. Yes, sir. It certainly is mine.
Mr. Yoho. Okay. Why is that? Mr. Dunne, go ahead.
Mr. Dunne. Okay. Thank you very much, sir. Look, even if you
look at the circumstances surrounding the elections in which the
state media were all bent toward General al-Sisi’s election com-
plaint by his chief opponent were dismissed out of hand by the
electoral commission including charges of intimidation at the poll-
That is an indication that the election while, you know, had the
form of a free and fair election wasn’t really free and fair. It was
a tightly restricted political space. But we see the restrictions on
I mean, Patrick is absolutely right that people — there are more
outlets now but we have many journalists in prison, others who are
being intimidated and others who are self-censoring because of, you
know, hints from the government. We have had political violence
at a level that we haven’t seen in Egypt.
Mr. Yoho. But why do you think it is moving more toward au-
thoritarian? Because I agree with Mr. LaHood and Ms. Jaafar in
that for the last 30 years we have seen a veneer that is washing
It is eroding away, and I think we are seeing maybe the true na-
ture of what the people in charge actually believe. They don’t be-
lieve in a democracy. They believe that people need to ruled
through the authoritarian model. Is that what you see?
Mr. Dunne. That is what I see and while there are, for example,
some new ostensibly more liberal elements in the new constitution
the rights guaranteed in that constitution have not been followed
in practice over the course of the last year and it has carved out
a space for the military to be absolutely unaccountable to civilian
Mr. Yoho. And I saw that the military has been given more au-
thority, and that brings me to a point that I want to bring up.
Do the Egyptian people — number one, what do they want and do
the Egyptian people know, understand or comprehend the meaning
or know the depth of what we deem as human rights as we under-
stand them as delineated in our Declaration of Independence which
we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain
unalienable rights, among these life, liberty and the pursuit of hap-
Our country was founded on these principles. What I see over
and over again, especially in the Middle East, is we are trying to
introduce these to a government, not to the people, and bring it in
from the bottom up instead of the top down because what I am see-
ing is after 30 years or 40 years of the veneer saying you have to
follow these and they are saying, with one hand, okay, we will do
that but with the other hand it is the repression that we have seen
over and over again because they don’t believe in this. What do the
Egyptian people believe in?
Mr. Dunne. I will take a first brief shot at this and then turn
it over to others. Polling data that I have seen over the last 10
years consistently shows that the Egyptians, as well as majorities
of populations in other Arab countries, believe that democracy is
the best form of government for them. They have a different view
of what that might mean.
Mr. Yoho. I need to stop you there because I often say this — a
democracy, as Ben Franklin pointed out, is two wolves and a sheep
deciding what to have for lunch. The sheep always loses.
We are a republic, which protects the rights of the minority, and
I think we should promote that more instead of democracy — this
word democracy is, and I know what we are all trying to say with
that but it is a misnomer because democracies don’t work real well.
Republics work pretty good, though.
Mr. Dunne. Yes. Marwan Muasher, who is the current vice
president of the Carnegie Endowment, is going back home to Jor-
dan to lead a new civil society organization. He just wrote a book
on pluralism in the Arab world and perhaps that is a better way
to describe it.
In other words, exactly what you are saying — the rights of mi-
norities whether they are religious minorities, women or others
need to be protected and respected and that is maybe more of what
I am trying to say, and I think the population in Egypt really more
or less agrees with that.
Right now, undoubtedly, their focus is on security and economic
success. But the revolution of 2011 was about that as well as about
better governance and the right of the people to be respected in
Mr. Yoho. And I admire them for standing up and doing that.
Madam Chair, my time is out. I appreciate it. Thank you all very
much. Good luck to you.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. You are the host of our Florida GOP lunch-
eon so you better make that good — some good barbecue.
Mr. Yoho. You don’t want to miss it.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Get over there and start cooking it.
Mr. Connolly is recognized.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Welcome to our
panel. Just by way of preface, I want to say that I have heard some
rationalization and equivocation among some here in Congress. I
believe that we undermine your cause when we rationalize a mili-
tary coup with a military dictatorship as ruthless as this one.
Mr. Dunne, I think you were making the point to Mr. Yoho that
this is a whole different magnitude — a whole different level of op-
pression. It is not just another authoritarian regime in Egypt and,
you know, the crackdown and the slaughter of citizens on the
streets is a whole new dimension.
And if we say here well, we didn’t like the Muslim Brotherhood —
I didn’t either, but our State Department actually said they were
elected in a free and fair election. It was overthrown by a military
junta and if American Congressmen think that is okay because of
ideological preference then I think we undermine everything you
all stand for and have worked for. And I also think, frankly, with-
out intending to we undermine the cause of the NGO personnel we
are trying to champion.
We cannot have it both ways. Either we are for democracy or we
are not, and we need to have clarity about that in this body. Other-
wise, we put you at risk.
Having said that, by the way, Mr. LaHood, did I understand you
to say you were concerned about your voting status in Virginia be-
cause of a conviction?
Mr. LaHood. Yes, sir. I moved — I was a resident in Virginia be-
fore I moved abroad and that is where my voting status is, in Ar-
lington, Virginia, and when I moved back to the States last year
they were getting ready for the primary — for the governor primary
and I actually looked up.
The state law in Virginia is a little bit vague. It basically says
if you are a convicted felon and you have completed your sentence
you are eligible for reapply to have your voting rights.
I never completed my sentence and the law is a little bit vague
in that it doesn’t delineate where they mean by that. And so I actu-
ally called the state board of
Mr. Connolly. Elections.
Mr. LaHood [continuing]. Of elections and asked some questions.
They called me back with some follow-up questions. But I never got
a clear answer. I am actually
Mr. Connolly. Okay.
Mr. LaHood [continuing]. On the cusp of relocating to Maryland
where the law is very specific and says if you have been convicted
in a municipal, state or Federal court, which I wasn’t, then
Mr. Connolly. I was going to offer to help you but if you have
got the bad taste of moving to Maryland there is no helping you.
Mr. LaHood. Well, my wife is from Baltimore so I don’t have
Mr. Connolly. All right. You are forgiven.
Mr. LaHood. If I am going to stay in the area it has got to be
Maryland. So I argued for Virginia.
Mr. Connolly. Well, if you come to your senses and move back
to Virginia let me know and I will help.
Mr. LaHood. I will. But my point is, sir, though that for us we
face these issues in trying to figure out how this works.
Mr. Connolly. Yes. Yes. Exactly. Mr. — well, do I understand
from your testimony that the State Department has not given you
a point of contact — who do we go to on our cases with respect to
organizations, Mr. — no?
Mr. Dunne. Yes, sir. That would certainly seem to be the case
at present. It used to be that the legal advisor’s office was highly
involved in this and, again, I have to give them credit for doing
what they did in concert with the Justice Department for getting
Interpol to vacate their — you know, the red
Mr. Connolly. Right.
Mr. Dunne [continuing]. Notice request, which I understand if
those had been issued and they are routinely issued we would have
been in serious trouble about our ability to travel anywhere outside
the United States.
Having said that, we have not heard from the State Department
on this case for probably close to a year since the convictions and
I do think State has moved on from it. And I grant that they have
quite a few things on their plate right now, but it is important to
Mr. Connolly. Well, it is important to us up here, too. So let us
work with you and I am appalled to hear that and shame on the
State Department for not staying on top of this and making sure
you all have a very clear point of contact who has got some author-
ity to try to answer questions and take actions when necessary.
Mr. Dunne, you also talked about the need for an integrated pol-
icy — you know, understanding the complexity of the relationship
with Egypt, and I think that is a really good point and I guess
what strikes me about how this State Department and about many
of my colleagues here in Congress have approached the relation-
ship, frankly, in a very compartmentalized way.
So this issue is over here, but after all, we have got — and we do.
We have lots of legitimate concerns and needs and priorities but if
we do that we make it just so much easier for the Egyptian Gov-
ernment to do what in fact it has done to you and to your organiza-
tions. A brief comment before my time runs out.
Mr. Dunne. I would just say I think that with what has hap-
pened in the NGO case the Egyptian Government thinks it just
won — it just won this issue and have accomplished what it wanted
to do, which is what I tried to describe in my testimony.
And I don’t, frankly, think that U.S. policy has caught up to the
new reality in Egypt and there does have to be this integrated pol-
icy which reconciles our security interests, which are very, very
real and our diplomatic interests as you see Egypt working on
Gaza right now but with the need to promote better governance,
civil society, human rights and the rule of law in the country and
be very clear about that in public, and I have not seen that up to
Mr. Connolly. If the chair will indulge. Anyone else want to
comment on that? Yes.
Mr. LaHood. The one thing I would just say to your point is, you
know, for the Egyptian Government to be able to prosecute our in-
stitutes, which are directly funded by the Embassy, by the U.S.
Government, we were doing exactly what we were asked to do by
the U.S. Government.
You look at the — you look at the board of IRI and NDI, not to
mention Freedom House with John McCain and Madeline
Albright — that they are able to prosecute us for doing this work
there and they get away with it, it sends a clear message through-
out Egypt to everyone that they are going to do whatever they
want and I think it is horribly damaging.
Mr. Butler. And I just want to add one thing — that it is not just
a message to Egypt. It is a message to countries around the world
and we have seen, for example, in Ecuador, which is another coun-
try that is not so friendly to the United States, that, you know,
crackdowns on NGOs there.
We had a project there where we were intending to work there
and we have had to pull out of that country in part because some
of the same things that — using some of the same tactics, not nec-
essarily charging but the same kinds of tactics against NGOs that
we saw in Egypt.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. And Ecuador, if I may interrupt, has hired
a PR giant — $6.4 million to do PR for them and what they do is
they charge folks who are opposition leaders with money laun-
dering, drug trafficking and they are here working the halls of Con-
gress saying that Ecuador — everything is great there.
Mr. Connolly. Madam Chairman, while you were out of the
room the issue of having a point of contact with the State Depart-
ment came up and we don’t have one, and knowing of your commit-
ment to this issue and, of course, my own, I wonder if you and I
might consider a joint letter to the Secretary to remedy that situa-
tion immediately. Mr. LaHood.
Mr. LaHood. Just the one other thing that we brought up is it
is not somebody who is a point of contact but somebody who is re-
sponsible for helping us resolve this issue.
Mr. Connolly. Right.
Mr. LaHood. Just to clarify it.
Mr. Connolly. No, no. That is my shorthand. But I think I did
make that clear it had to be someone vested with the authority to
respond to you and make decisions and point us in the right direc-
tion when somebody else has the expertise. I agree.
Mr. Cicilline. And a coordinated response.
Mr. Connolly. A coordinated response. That is right. Undoubt-
edly, the chairman and I will work out that language.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Mr. Cicilline is recognized.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Thank you again for your testimony and for being here. You
know, I think in many ways people do assume when individuals
were released that sort of everything is fine and I really appreciate
you sharing with us and with everyone who is watching the impact
that this has had on you and others and the implications it has for
the rest of your life.
And, you know, I know a lot of people toss around the word he-
roes but you are four great American heroes and the colleagues you
represented in your testimony are as well and we are a better
world because of what you do and just want to say at the outset
thank you for your courage and for the work.
In my tradition we call it (foreign language spoken) — healing the
world, which is what you are doing by building civil society and de-
mocracy all over the world.
So I think one of the challenges we face is that the — almost by
definition the places in the world that need your work most ur-
gently are the places, of course, where it is hardest to do the work
just by definition and so, you know, the opposition to freedom and
liberty and human rights isn’t organic.
It is typically the force of some other structure, whether it is
military or government, and so by definition the places that democ-
racy building is so urgently needed are the hardest places to do it
and, as you all know better than anybody, it is sometimes the most
dangerous places to do it.
So what I sort of — I think our responsibility is to figure out what
do we do to reduce the danger of this really important, and to your
point, Ms. Jaafar, critical to the security interests of this country.
This isn’t just democracy building because it would be better to
live in a world where everyone enjoys these freedoms, which of
course it would be, but it is in our direct national security interests
to develop democracies and freedom and liberty around the world.
And so it is not an extra exercise.
It is, I think, central to our responsibility to keep American citi-
zens safe here and around the world. So I take it that, first, is, you
know, we have to continue to press the Egyptian Government
about the importance of responding to this case appropriately.
I met with the Egyptian Ambassador yesterday. This was central
to my conversation with him. I think this hearing does that but I
think — you know, I take away that that is something we need to
continue to do, be certain that we are continuing to fund and sup-
port democracy building around the world.
Don’t use this occasion to pull back from that. In some ways, it
becomes even more urgent that we stay engaged in this work.
Third, that we have to be sure that we — that the people who are
doing this work sort of understand that it is not just an important
exercise and good to do sort of like philanthropic work but it is,
again, central to our security and just making sure our colleagues
understand that as well as the American people.
Fourth, I think to make sure that we identify and mitigate risks
in every say that we can and be sure that that information is being
communicated to NGOs in country-specific ways so that as they do
this important work that we at least reduce in every way that we
can the dangers.
And I think the final thing that I would add to that list is, and
this sort of builds on something Mr. LaHood just said, it is really
for us to make the case that these are not individual criminal cases
While that is part of it, these are really cases against democracy
and civil society and the American way of life and really if there
were some way for us to really almost intervene in these cases as
a country because the work of these NGOs is not the work of an
Although they are the people doing it, it is the work of the
United States and the work of, you know, intentional decisions by
this Congress representing the people to invest in this work. And
so I don’t know the right way for us to do that but I think we have
got to figure out a way that this becomes our cause, not just the
cause of individual defendants in the criminal case.
So that is, I think, my list of six things but I want to, in addition
to that, are there other things that we should do or could begin to
do as a Congress to advance the work that you and the organiza-
tions you represent are engaged in?
Mr. Dunne. Let me just start very briefly.
Mr. Cicilline. I am the last witness so I can just summary, as
I can do, you know.
Mr. Dunne. Look, I totally agree with the points you brought up
and just to kind of expand a little bit on the last one, I would also
say that we have to insist on the internationally guaranteed rights
of civil society in Egypt and elsewhere to associate with organiza-
tions such as all of ours.
Part of the intention of the new NGO law and the NGO case was
to sever those ties so NGOs in Egypt could be more easily re-
pressed and I think it is very important to continue speaking out
And any time there is a congressional delegation who is going to
Egypt to meet with civil society organizations and I think it would
be wonderful if congressional delegations could already — could try
to meet with some of the people who have been imprisoned because
of their political involvements such as Ahmed Maher, for example,
And the Egyptian Government will always refuse but it certainly
makes a public case for the importance of this. One other thing is
I would just like to draw your attention to is the ongoing expansion
of anti-terrorism laws in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other countries
in the Middle East which broadly create definitions of terrorism
that include all sorts of political activities.
This is one of the reasons why the A1 Jazeera journalists were
convicted — for associating with the Muslim Brotherhood. That is
considered terrorism now, and you see similar laws in other places
and that is something that should be, I think, a talking point with
a lot of these governments because it is part of this authoritarian
push back that I was trying to describe earlier.
Mr. LaHood. If I could, just a couple quick points I would make.
You know, first is, as I said in my statement, finding domestic re-
lief for us is something that would be helpful, obviously, and as I
understand yesterday in the Senate a bill was actually introduced
that referred directly to our case.
Senate Bill 2649 was introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham and
he had a few bipartisan co-sponsors and I understand that it was
a bill to provide certain legal relief from politically motivated
charges by the Government of Egypt and specifically about our
case. And so that, as I understand is the specific relief we need to
help us here in the United States.
But the second point I would make is ultimately for us what we
need is a pardon from President al-Sisi. That is the only thing that
is going to lift this cloud that sort of hangs over our heads. And
so to the extent that the administration and Congress can keep the
advocacy of that up is helpful to us as well. Thank you.
Mr. Cicilline. Thanks.
Mr. Butler. Just a couple of quick points. I agree with every-
thing Sam just said in terms of assistance to the organizations and
the individuals who were convicted.
Two points — one is that, you know, you mentioned the impor-
tance of protecting NGOs of communicating with NGOs and I think
that is a point that was alluded to earlier but perhaps hasn’t been
expounded upon enough, which is that in this dispute between the
U.S. Government and the Egyptian Government over the aid — the
increased aid that was going to our NGOs we didn’t know anything
about that — you know, that dispute that was happening between,
you know, the objections that the Egyptian Government was rais-
ing to the redirection of funding toward us and we could have had
the opportunity to decide if, you know, is this something we want
You know, I think if we knew that now in another country we
would be very careful about taking that assistance if we knew that
the local government had objected to it.
So I think communicating with the NGOs that is obviously an
administration thing, not a Congress thing. But that is one point.
Another point is in terms of further assistance is our grants is
over so we no longer have any funds to support our Egyptian per-
sonnel or for legal costs if there should be additional legal costs.
So that is something going forward.
You know, we are on the line for paying for all that ourselves if
there are additional legal costs. You know, the Egyptian defendants
are appealing their cases. We can’t appeal ours but they are ap-
pealing theirs. So that is another point.
Ms. Jaafar. I agree with everything you said. I couldn’t have
summarized it better. I would just add that it is very important
that we continue to support civil society in Egypt. They do feel
Yes, the environment is a lot more oppressive and challenging
now, more than it has ever been, and yet they are still willing to
do the work. They are still willing to take the risk, to build a better
Egypt for their children, for their community, and I think we need
to support that both, you know, in terms of assistance — financial
assistance — but also vocally as well.
Mr. Cicilline. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I yield
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Cicilline. Thank you, Mr.
Johnson, for sticking around for this panel. It says a lot about you
and your interest, and thank you. You inspire us and we will work
all we can do to seek that pardon.
Thank you so very much for your wonderful stories, for sharing
it, and for the trauma that this has brought upon your lives. Thank
you for speaking out for freedom, democracy, the rule of law. You
do good work. Thank you.
And with that, the subcommittee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:14 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
Material Submitted for the Record
( 83 )
SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING NOTICE
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WASHINGTON, DC 20515-6128
Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa
lleana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman
July 17, 2014
TO: MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
You are respectfully requested to attend an OPEN hearing of the Subcommittee on the
Middle East and North Africa, to be held in Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building
(and available live on the Committee website at www.foreignaftairs.house.gov ):
D ATE : Thursday, July 24, 20 1 4
TTME: 10:00 a.m.
SUBJECT: The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt
WITNESSES: Panel I
Mr. Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
Director, International Security & Counterterrorism Issues
International Affairs & Trade Team
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Mr. Charles Dunne
Director, Middle East and North Africa Programs
Mr. Sam LaHood
Former Egypt Country Director
International Republican Institute
Mr. Patrick Butler
Vice President, Programs
International Center for Journalists
Ms. Lila Jaafar
Senior Program Manager
National Democratic Institute
By Direction of tile Chairman
The Committee on Foreign Affairs seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. If you are in need of special accommodations, please call
202*225-5021 at least four business days in ads’ance of the event, whenever practicable. Questions with regard to special accommodations in general (including
availability of Committee materials in alternative formats and assistive listening devices) may he directed to the Committee.
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINUTES OF SUBCOMMITTEE ON the Middle Ea st and North Africa HEARING
Pay Thursday Dale 07/24/14 Room 2172
Starting Time !0:li/ p.tn. Ending Time 12:1.4 p.m.
Chairman ltos-L eh (men
Check all of the following that apply;
Open Session [Z] EJectronicaily Recorded (taped) l~7~l
Executive (closed) Session CZI Stenographic Record [ZJ
TITLE OF HEARING:
The Struggle for Civil Society in Egypt
SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Dcutch, Reps. Wilson, Weber, Cotton, Yoho, Connolly, Cicilline,
NON-SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT: (Mark with an * if they are not members of full committee.)
Rep . Rohrabachcr
HEARING WITNESSES: Same as meeting notice attached? Yes [T] No f~\
(If "no", please list below and include title, agency, department, or organization.)
STATEMENTS FOR THE RECORD: (List any statements submit fed for the record.)
QFR - Rep. Collins
TIME SCHEDULED TO RECONVENE
TIME ADJOURNED 12:15p.m.
House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee Hearing on the Struggle for Civil
Society in Egypt, July 24, 2014
Question for the Record
Submitted by the Honorable Doug Collins
To Mr. Charles Michael Johnson, Jr.
Question 1 :
For fiscal year 2014, Congress has appropriated $1.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing
and $250 million in Economic Support Funds to Egypt; however, the delivery of
assistance is subject to certain conditions. If the stipulations that govern the release of
ESF are not met, how does that affect the Egyptian economy? How much does the
Egyptian economy rely on our military aid?
While our ongoing review of U.S. assistance to Egypt currently underway for Subcommittee
Chair lleana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, does not specifically address
these question, the following is information from the Department of State on the amount of
Economic Support Fund (ESF) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance that the U.S.
government has allocated to Egypt from fiscal years 2009 to 2013 (see table 1); from the World
Bank on Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Investment, and Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI); and from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Egypt's
military expenditure (see table 2). These data are intended to indicate how U.S. economic and
security assistance relate to the overall size of Egypt’s economy and amount of investment in
Egypt. We also include an estimate of Egyptian military expenditures from SIPRI, an
international institute, to help place FMF in context. We determined that the data from the
Department of State and the World Bank were sufficiently reliable for our purposes. However,
we were not able to assess fully the reliability of the data on Egyptian military expenditure due to
the fact that these data are based on open-source materials produced by national governments
and other entities.
In regards to the certification requirements in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, 1 for
assistance for Egypt, including ESF, Secretary Kerry has certified that Egypt has met some, but
not all, of the requirements for Egypt to receive funding. On April 22, 2014, Secretary Kerry
certified to Congress that Egypt is sustaining its strategic relationship with the United States and
is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-lsrael Peace Treaty; however, he has not yet made
other certifications that are required before ESF funds may be provided for certain purposes.
Specifically, Secretary Kerry has not yet certified that the Government of Egypt (1) is taking
steps to stabilize the economy and implement economic reforms, (2) has held a constitutional
referendum and is taking steps to support a democratic transition in Egypt, or (3) has held
parliamentary and presidential elections, and that a newly elected Government of Egypt is
taking steps to govern democratically. We note that there are some portions of ESF funding
that are available for assistance to Egypt notwithstanding the certification requirements
in the fiscal year 2014 appropriations act, including funding for economic growth,
education, and democracy programs.
Pub. L. No, 113-76, § 7041(a), 128 Stat. 5 at 522 (Jan. 17, 2014).
Table 1: Allocations for U,S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Economic Support Funds (ESF) for Egypt,
Fiscal Years 2009-2013
Dollars in millions
Source: Department of Stale.
Table 2: Gross Domestic Product, Investment
in. Egypt, Calendar Years 2009-2013
, Foreign Direct Investment, and Estimated Military Expenditure
Dollars in millions
FDI net inflows
Legend: GDP * gross domestic product, FDI = foreign direct investment.
Source: Data on GDP, investment, and FDI are from the World Bank Development Indicators. Data on military expenditure are from the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI) database, accessed July 28, 2014, hllpr/Arww.sipri.or^researeh/ar.Tiaments/milex/milex.tfatabase.
Notes; Limitations to the SIPRI database indude the possibility of inaccurate reporting by source materials, uncertainty resulting
from SIPRI-generated estimates, and corrections where sources do not agree with each other.
“FDI data for 2013 were unavailable.